How Pushkin illustrates the theme of corruption in the “The Queen of Spades?”

Alexander Pushkin in his writing, “The Queen of Spades”, takes the reader through the world of faro gambling at the time of the Imperialist Russia in the beginning of the early 19th century. The author’s intention in going inside this world of faro gambling is to reveal his principle subject matter, the destructive consequences of greediness and corruption, which is both dominant in Russia’s society currently and on people’s souls. According to the writing, the corruption of love by money and class is preyed by two individual characters: the blameless and fixated, “angel and fallen angel, Lizaveta and Herman, Susan Chilcott and Placido Domingo” (Pushkin 1890).

The author introduces an inscrutable character, Hermann, a protagonist, and tries to makes him so likable, with an intention of carrying away the reader emotionally looking at the consequence of corruption, and makes the reader more leaning to empathize with him (Herman) when his greed or corrupt behaviors lead to his down-fall. Hermann endeavours to enrich his own self at the expense of others. We see that Herman cannot overcome his greed that eventually corrupts his heart and soul.

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To begin with, he deceives Lizaveta and he even has no regrets for his actions. As the author narrates when he (Hermann) meets Lizaveta in her house: “Hermann gazed at her in silence: his heart, too, was a prey to violent emotion, but neither the tears of the poor girl, nor the wonderful charm of her beauty, enhanced by her grief, could produce any impression upon his hardened soul” (Pushkin 1890). However, although he has feelings for Lizaveta (as he says “I am ready to take your sin upon my soul”), he is overcome by greed for money, which corrupts his heart and betrayed her trust for money. This can be seen where he was waiting for the Countess to go to sleep, but hears Lizaveta walking up the staircase, Pushkin (1890) says, “Something like remorse stirred in his heart, but died down again.” Even besides frightening the old woman to death with his behavior, he has no remorse for her death and he is still persistent to master the secret of the card even if it meant carrying the lifetime yoke of a horrific indulgence but winning the fortune. When he lastly masters the secret of the game and wins 47,000 rubles, he tends to believe that all belongs to him and he is obsessed by the card. Hermann greedily deceives other gamblers large sums.

We can see how corrupt Hermann’s behavior becomes when he tells the Countess, “Perhaps the price of it was some terrible sin, the loss of eternal bliss, a compact with the devil” (Pushkin 1890). Pushkin also brings out other thematic concerns in the writing such as the negative nature of corruption and the influence of sexuality, drawing attention to the Oedipal affiliation between the Countess and the protagonist. Herman flees from the Countess’s house with the assistance of Lizaveta, who is later aghast of learning that Herman’s profession of love was disguised with greed. However, in the end Hermann doubles his winnings on the gambling table but eventually lost it all he had, including his mind, after he mistaken a queen for an ace. This led to his confinement in a mental hospital, and his obsession got worse.

The only thing that pricked his conscience was the irremediable failure of the secret to win him fortunes; all the time he repeated, “Three, seven, ace. Three, seven, queen” (Pushkin 1890).


Pushkin, A.

(1890). The queen of spades. (Translated by Duddington, N.). New York: Progress Publishers.


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