Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Captain's Daughter

Go To
The Captain's Daughter (Rus: Капитанская дочка) is a short Historical Fiction novel by Russian poet and playwright Alexander Pushkin published in 1836. The story concerns a young man named Pyotr Grinyov, who is enlisted in the military by his disciplinarian father and sent to a desolate fort in the corner of Russia. Along the way, however, his kibitka (carriage/sled) is caught in a snow storm and only through the intersession of a Cossack guide do they escape. Pyotr repays the guide for his help by giving him his hare skin pelisse. When Pyotr arrives a his destination, a run-down and inactive fort called Belogorsk, he meets a colorful cast of characters—the foolish Captain Mironov, the shady Shvabrin, and the Captain's pretty daughter, Masha, with whom Pyotr falls in love.

As the story progresses, however, reports come in about the arrival of a Cossack known as Emelyan Pugachov, who claims to be the dead former Tsar, Pyotr III, and has been devastating the countryside around Belogorsk...

But that only scratches the surface of the plot, for there is much more within this story of action and romance.

The novel contains examples of:

  • Analogy Backfire: Pugachyov's plot centers on him claiming to be the deceased Tzar. When he gets called on the folly of this by Pytor Grinyov, he cites the example of Grigoriy Otrepyev, who managed to claim the throne by claiming to be the assassinated Dmitry Ivanovich. Pyotr retorts by reminding him of Otrepyev's fate: Thrown from a window, cut to pieces, burnt, and fired from a cannon.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: What Shvabrin tries to do to Masha once he becomes commandant of the Fort.
  • Advertisement:
  • Beard of Evil: Pugachyov
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: After Belogorsk is sacked by Pugachyov, Pyotr seems to await the same fate as Captain Mironov and Ivan Ignatich, but his life is spared once Pugachyov realizes that Pyotr was the man who gave him the hare-skin coat. He helps Pyotr out for the rest of the story, despite both of them technically being enemies.
  • Big Bad Friend: Pugachyov to Pyotr, to pay him back for giving him the pelisse at the beginning.
  • Cavalry Officer: Zurin, a gambling cavalry officer who Pyotr comes across in his travels.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Coat Pyotr gave to the guide (Pugachyov)
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Guide AKA Pugachyov. Later on, Pyotr is momentarily reprieved after being placed under arrest when the local commanding officer turns out to be none other than Zurin.
  • Cossacks
  • Advertisement:
  • Dad the Veteran: Pyotr's father was a soldier in the guards before the events of the story.
  • Damsel in Distress: Masha seems like a straight example of this at first, But after Pyotr is imprisoned for his "friendship" with Pugachyov, it is she who goes to the empress, alone, to request his freedom. And succeeds, no less.
  • Defiled Forever: Two of Pyotr's servants claim that Pyotr's French Tutor—Beaupré—ruined them. This gets him fired by Pyotr's father, much to the delight of Saveltich.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: The author made use of one of these to avoid censorship: The hero Grinyov is friends with the anti-Czarist rebel Pugachyov, yet remains a positive character, which could have led to the book being banned in Czarist Russia. So Pushkin introduced Shvabrin, a spineless, unscrupulous traitor who sells out everybody in comparison to this, the hero seems quite loyal and patriotic.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The book is framed like a memoir, ending with a note from the author (Pushkin) that "The memoirs of Pyotr Grinyov end here."
  • The Dragon: An interesting example where the Dragon is also the main antagonist, Shvabrin becomes Pugachyov's Dragon at Belogorsk, but is also the greatest threat to Pyotr and Masha.
  • Duel to the Death: Another story showcasing Pushkin's mad obsession with dueling. In this story, Shvabrin was sent to Belogorsk for killing a man in a duel. And later Pyotr and Shvabrin get in a duel over a poem wrote for Masha, which Shvabrin made fun of. The duel is interrupted, but that doesn't stop the two of them from trying again. In the second duel, they fight, but Pyotr is distracted by his servant Savelitch calling out to him, and he is wounded.
  • Evil Former Friend: Aleksey Shvabrin
  • Fainting: Masha is prone to this whenever stressed. She spends a portion of the story after the sacking of Belgorsk downright feverish and bedridden.
  • False Rape Accusation: In chapter one of the story, two of Grinyov's servants pretend his French tutor raped them in order to get him fired.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Pugachyov starts As a Yaik Cossack guide to the terror of the Russian Empire leading one of the largest peasant rebellions in Russian history.
  • The Gambler: Zurin, a Cavalry officer Pyotr meets along the way to Belogorsk. Pyotr gets drunk and loses one-hundred rubles to him.
  • Historical Domain Character: Catherine the Great, Emelyan Pugachyov, and the Russian folk bandit Khlopusha.
  • Honor Before Reason: Pyotr is unable to explain what his business was with Pugachyov in the occupied fort of Belgorsk because he dares not mention Masha for fear of implicating her in treason along with him. Pyotr suspects that Shvabrin similarly chose to protect Masha after he was captured by the authorities due to his own lingering feelings for her.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Shvabrin has been lusting after Masha since before the story began, and once he has taken over the Fort, he focuses his attention on trying to force her into marrying him.
  • Mildly Military: The Belogorsk garrison has not seen action for years, and spend their time holding drills note  drinking tea, or helping the Captain's wife with household duties. They haven't even fired the fort's only cannon in years... Showing why this trope isn't usually a good thing in real life, the fort is completely unprepared when Pugachyov and the Cossacks arrive and sack the place.
    • The Imperial Guard is implied to be at least partially this. For one thing, Pytor was made an officer in The Guards while still being home-schooled. He is sent to Belogorsk because his superiors think it would be a better use of his time than fooling around in St. Petersburg.
  • Off with His Head!: The fate of Pugachyov, who is executed for his rebellion against the Empire Truth in Television
  • Old Soldier: The entire garrison of Belogorsk is this save for Pyotr and Shvabrin. Most notably, the fort's commandant Ivan Kuzmitch.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, there are two men named Ivan stationed at Belogorsk, and one with the patronymic Ivanovich.
  • Reality Ensues: Pugachyov favors Pyotr greatly after Pyotr insisted on repaying him for saving his life early in the book, sparing his life and helping him rescue Masha from Shvabrin. When word of this gets back to the Imperial authorities, Pyotr is immediately arrested and accused of treason.
  • Rebel Leader: Pugachyov
  • Secondary Character Title: The Captain's Daughter is NOT the main character of the book, but rather her boyfriend Pyotr.
  • Shown Their Work: Depiction of the Pugachev's rebellion in The Captain's Daughter is very historically accurate. Pushkin actually authored a serious scholarly monograph entitled The History of Pugachev's Mutiny parallel to the novel, that is still scientifically relevant and has shown all the hallmarks of the top-notch historian, making his death all the more tragic.
  • Values Dissonance: At one point, Pyotr is told to find something to do with his time, as he can't just spend all his free time thrashing Jews. Note that this line would likely have been much less offensive to it's target audience when it was written.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: