The Queen of Spades presents
the story of Hermann...
The Queen of Spades presents
the story of Hermann who is a young officer of the Russian Army engineers. When
the comrades of Hermann ask him why he only tends to watch them gamble but he
never plays cards himself, he responds that he rarely cares to “sacrifice the
necessaries of life for uncertain superfluities.” Then his friend Tomsky, one
night, tells the tale of his grandmother who unfortunately lost a fortune while
in Paris when she was but a young woman and later found herself lacking the
capability to repay her gambling debts. She thus turned to the Count of Saint
Germain for assistance who rather than lending her the money told her about the
secret of three winning cards so that she could get back her lost fortune and
more. Hermann is so much engrossed in the story that he cannot think of
anything else except getting the old Countess to tell him the secret. To accomplish
his goal, he flirts with Lisaveta, the ward of the Countess by sending her love
letters. He eventually manages to get Lisaveta to tell him how to get inside
the house and into her room. He waits for the Countess in the bedroom and bids
her reveal the secret to him; however, she reveals that it was only a joke. He
refuses to believe her and pulls a pistol at her. The old woman is so terrified
that she dies from fear. Hermann tells Lisaveta what happened and asks her to
help him get out. A ghost of the Countess appears to Hermann during the night
after her funeral and reveals the secret o him. Finally, Hermann plays cards
and stakes all his fortune thrice. He wins twice, but the third final time…
I found the story to be quite
a longish short story. I believe it is, however, an excellent story which has
been written in an airy, light manner, despite the elements of supernatural
presences which later creep into the tale’s second half. I could not help but
notice that the writer has an observant eye of a poet which is easily evident
in how he describes his characters, along with several lines regarding the old
countess: “She was a full participant in all high-society frivolities, taking
herself off to every ball, where she sat things out in a corner, roughed up and
dressed in the fashions of yesteryear, like a hideous but indispensable
ballroom ornament.” I found this humorous casual style contrasting quite nicely
with the dark turn which the tale takes eventually.
I found the story also very
outlandish and this became more so as the story continued to go on. The story
contains certain romance properties presented in the classical sense. It
presented a continuous narrative whereby emphasis is put on what happens in the
plot, and not what is reflected from experience or ordinary life. I happened to
notice the gothic elements such as a ghost and secret passages included by the
author, which exist in a story which in its telling course greatly disavows
naturalist underpinnings as it becomes uncanny. Among the first things, I
noticed in this story is its sophisticated construction. The plot involving the
Countess and Hermann takes up during the second half of the story, though in
the first section of the story, Herman appears as a peripheral figure.
As I was interpreting the
story, I came up with two major interpretations. In the first interpretation, I
perceived it as a supernatural story due to the presence of magic cards and the
ghost of the Countess. In my second interpretation, however, I perceived the
events happening in the story as a realistic evolution of the mental illness of
Hermann. These included his irrational actions and distorted perceptions which
I suspect were as a result of hallucinations, alcohol, dreams, or guilt.
All in all, I could not tell
whether the story is some kind of morality tale that is veiled, warning people
about the evils of gambling. This is because the fate of Hermann is definitely
not a happy one, and it is evident that he lost a lot as he played the title
card. The story demonstrated a secret ill-will. If this is the case, where does
this ill will emerge from? Is it the Countess, who his hell-bent on getting her
revenge for her murder by accident? Or could it be Herman is already mad, and
he is a victim to suggestibility which makes him believe in delusional visions?
The story provides hints that the murder of the Countess may not only be the
crime committed by Herman. After reading the story, I believe that Hermann may
at least have three crimes on his conscience, therefore the idea of may be
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