Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Superfluous man

The superfluous man is a 1840s and 1850s Russian literary concept derived from the Byronic hero. It refers to an individual, perhaps talented and capable, who does not fit into social norms. In most cases this person is born into wealth and privilege. Typical characteristics are disregard for social values, cynicism, and existential boredom. Typical behaviors are gambling, romantic intrigues, and duels. He is often unempathic and carelessly distresses others with his actions.

This term was popularized by Ivan Turgenev's novella The Diary of a Superfluous Man and was thereafter applied to characters from earlier novels. The character type originates in Alexander Pushkin's verse-novel Eugene Onegin. Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time depicted another Superfluous Man Pechorin as its protagonist.

He can be seen as a nihilist and fatalist. Later examples include Alexander Herzen's Beltov and the titular character of Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov. The Russian critics such as Vissarion Lewinsky viewed the superfluous man as a by-product of Nicholas I's reactionary reign when the best educated men would not enter the discredited government service and, lacking other options for self-realization, doomed themselves to live out their life in passivity. Scholar David Patterson describes the superfluous man as "not just...another literary type but...a paradigm of a person who has lost a point, a place, a presence in life" before concluding that "the superfluous man is a homeless man"

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