Binary Images in The Bronze Horseman Alexandr Pushkins poem The Bronze Horseman is a seemingly glorious narrative of the solidity of the great city of Petrograd. The work extols Peter the Great and his awesome achievement of constructing a shining new city whose beauty is contrasted with the paleness of its predecessor, Moscow. At first, the poem gives Peter a mythological quality and emphasizes his position as a national hero. The Bronze Horseman, however, does not depict Petrograd and its founder in a positive light for long. The latter section of the work recounts the story of Yevgeni, a denizen of Peters city whose life and dreams are ruined by a flood which engulfs Petrograd.
Pushkin uses sets of contrasting binary images to emphasize the discrepancy between Yevgenis struggle and the ease with which the city handles the crisis. One key contrast is between Peters greatness and Yevgenis humanity. This difference is evident in his descriptions of the two characters language, homes, aspirations, and fates. Peters greatness is first emphasized in the poems opening line. Referring to Peter simply as he, Pushkin gives the czar a majestic tone from the outset. Peter stands along a barren shore, having vanquished the Finns. His mind is full of grandiose thoughts: plans for the future and the transformation of his country. Peter thinks and speaks in declarative and unquestionable tones.
From here we will outface the Swede; To spite our haughty neighbor I shall found a city here. Yevgenis speech lacks the confidence of Peters. Rather, his is full of questions, some being rhetorical and some being actual dilemmas which Yevgeni must face. While Peter considers the construction of an entire city, Yevgeni occupies himself with thoughts of marriage, children and a humble, simple shelter. While Peter strives to achieve immortality through his metropolis, Yevgeni thinks of his grandchildren as his legacy, and imagines going hand in hand to the grave with his love, Parasha. During the flood, Peter has great concern for his city while Yevgeni has concern only for his loved ones. The fact that the czar is upset by the loss of a city while Yevgeni loses only a lover and a daughter gives an excellent perspective of the scope of the two characters worlds.
Peters greatness and broad responsibility prohibit him from sharing Yevgenis human concerns. Peter, instead of mourning the loss of people, laments that he was unable to master the divine elements. Finally, the measure of Peters greatness versus Yevgenis (pathetic) humanity can be observed through their fates. Peter, arguably the greater of the two madmen, is immortalized through grand tributes. He leaves behind a window to Europe, a modern city bearing his name, and the majestic bronze horseman statue. Yevgeni, on the other hand, is not immortalized.
While Peters love was a stone city which endured the high water, Yevgenis love was a woman of flesh who perished in the deluge. While Peter carried on with his remains, Yevgeni had no remains. His whole existence was ruined with the death of one, and his sanity died with her. The Bronze Horseman can be interpreted to mean many things. All of those interpretations involve a conflict between Peter and Yevgenia conflict which Pushkin emphasizes through his use of contrasting images.