Superfluous Man

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Superfluous Man


(Lishnii chelovek), a sociopsychologi-cal character type recurrent in Russian literature of the first half of the 19th century. The term denotes a hero who is alienated from official Russia and from his own (usually aristocratic) milieu, to which he feels intellectually and morally superior, but is at the same time spiritually weary, profoundly skeptical, and unable to correlate his words and actions.

The term “superfluous man” came into common usage after the publication of Turgenev’s The Diary of a Superfluous Man (1850), but the type evolved earlier. Onegin (Eugene Onegin by Pushkin) was the first complete embodiment; later such heroes included Pechorin (A Hero of Our Time by Lermontov), Bel’tov (Who Is To Blame? by Herzen), and the Turgenev characters Rudin (Rudin) and Lavretskii (A Nest of Gentlefolk).

Heroes with some of the spiritual qualities of the superfluous man (at times in a complex and altered form) continued to appear through the early 20th century—for example, in the works of Saltykov-Shchedrin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov—and even of Kuprin, Veresaev, and Gorky. The type also appeared in the lyric poetry of Lermontov and Ogarev.

In Western European literature the closest type to the superfluous man is the hero created by the “long hangover” after the bourgeois revolution of the 18th century (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Sock., vol. 8, p. 122) and by disillusionment with social progress (Adolphe by B. Constant and Confession of a Child of the Century by A. de Musset). However, the contradictions of Russian reality, the contrast between “civilization and slavery” (A. I. Herzen, Sobr. soch., vol. 7, 1956, p. 205), and the backwardness of Russian social life made the superfluous man more conspicuous than his Western counterpart and made his emotional experiences more dramatic and intense.

In the late 1850’s and early 1860’s the revolutionary democrats N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubov sharply criticized the superfluous man’s indecisiveness and passivity but unfairly reduced the core of his problems to the theme of liberalism. Dostoevsky also reappraised the superfluous man, condemning his individualism and alienation from the common people.

As a literary type, the superfluous man arose as a reaction to the romantic hero of Byron and Pushkin and evolved into a realistic portrayal of the dichotomy between persona and author. Renunciation of didactic aims in the name of an impartial analysis of “the history of the soul” (Lermontov) was an essential element in the creation of the superfluous man, whose emergence paved the way for profound psychological portrayal and the subsequent entry of realism into literature.


Chernyshevskii, N. G. “Russkii chelovek na rendezvous.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 5. Moscow, 1950.
Goncharov, I. A. “Mil’on terzanii.” Sobr. soch., vol. 8. Moscow, 1952.


References in periodicals archive ?
Similarly to the DDS, a partial food frequency index (PFFS) was calculated to exclude fats, sweets and sweetened tea which were not recommended in the food guidelines and cited here as superfluous.
Rome -- Speaking about why Christians celebrate Jesus' birth, Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cot Unum," noted that this question, which seems superfluous, must be answered again today in a spirit of faith, whether in reference to some of our contemporaries or to some politicians.
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Korda argues that The Merry Wives of Windsor "mobilize[s], in order to dispel, cultural anxieties surrounding the housewife's unsupervised supervision of the household" (92); explores Measure for Measure as a play full of endangered single women, shrewdly analyzing single women's loss of place in Renaissance society; and suggests that Petruchio educates Kate "as a manipulator of status objects": "in marrying the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Petruchio exposes his frugal household economy to the threat of superfluous expenditure" (57, 64).
Besides translating liturgy into the vernacular and abolishing superfluous saints' days, Cranmer reduced the Offices of the Church from eight to two: Martins and Evensong.
Cervical rib is a congenital bony abnormality in which a superfluous rib forms superior to the first rib.
Maybe they will have made such canny investments in the stock market and will have enjoyed such long-lasting good health that the concept of government assistance for long-term care will seem superfluous at best, and certainly not worth an investment of precious tax dollars.
although the claim that smoking pot makes people more likely to use other drugs is politically useful, a new study from the RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center shows that it is scientifically superfluous.
This is said to render pits and platforms superfluous, even if using high molds, and steps are equally no longer necessary for the strip feeding, according to the company.