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Turgenev's shy hero, Tchulkaturin, is a representative example of a Russian archetype - the "superfluous man", a sort of Hamlet not necessarily dignified with the title Prince: an individual of comfortable means leading a dreary existence, without purpose and led on by events which may, as in this story, engulf him. The novella takes the form of a diary started by Tchulkaturin in the shock of being diagnosed as having a terminal illness. The journal entries cover a period of two weeks, leading to his death. Tchulkaturin quickly homes in on the only significant event in his life - an unreciprocated falling-in-love leading haphazardly to a non-fatal duel that leaves him desolated and fully conscious of the futility of his inactive existence.(Summary by Martin Geeson)