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Choosing the Right Card: Madness, Gambling, and the Imagination in Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades"

Gary Rosenshield
PMLA
Vol. 109, No. 5 (Oct., 1994), pp. 995-1008
DOI: 10.2307/462967
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462967
Page Count: 14
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Choosing the Right Card: Madness, Gambling, and the Imagination in Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades"
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Abstract

In approaching the enigmatic representation of Germann's fantastic visions and experiences in "The Queen of Spades," Dostoevsky argues that the perfection of the story lies in Pushkin's ability to make mutually exclusive ideas equally convincing. However, Germann's madness, one of the story's central events, has been treated almost uniformly as a sort of punishment visited on the hero by the author. To be sure, Pushkin often resorts to parody to bring out the reductive and vulgar aspects of his hero's imagination and madness-a literary practice of the times. Nevertheless, Pushkin also subtly provides evidence for an antithetical but equally valid romantic interpretation of Germann's madness and life. When Germann chooses the queen at the end, he takes the right card: for the first time in his life, he chooses to risk, to gamble-that is, to live. Germann's choice-and the madness that leads to and results from it-echoes in Russian literature from Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov to Nabokov's own Hermann/ΓepΜaΗ in Despair.

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