“Eugene Onegin” is the most famous work of a Russian author named Pushkin. It’s written in 5.600 verses and it is a novel containing 8 chapters. Pushkin wrote it almost 8 years and is now considered one of the most significant works of Russian literature. This novel started the popularity rising of Russian literature in the 19th century – it turned focus from Romanticism to Realism. For its innovation, it was an inspiration to many, not only writers but also other artists.
The novel “Eugene Onegin” was written while Pushkin was in exile. He wrote nine chapters in lyrics, but before he published it, Pushkin censored some parts of it so that it’s criticism of politics and society, which is clearly visible through the work, would not lead to his arrests. Thus, author, not only omitted, but also burned an entire chapter. At the end, the novel was published in eight parts. The first part was published in 1825, the novel was completed in 1831 and published in full two years later.
Each chapter of the novel describes some important event in Russian and world history, so the novel touches political and social changes since the fall of Napoleon to the Decembrist Revolt in Russia. Although the novel has many different events, controversies and problems, its basic plot is a love story, around which all other actions revolve. But what makes the novel special are realistic depictions of everyday’s life, which are abundant. Pushkin described the people, lifestyle, problems and challenges of life in the early 19th century, political events, including customs, fashion, a simple everyday life of the Russian people. That is why the novel is considered an encyclopedia of Russian society of the 19th century. It is real credible because it was written precisely at a time when its action was happening.
Because of its thematic structure, all of the chapters can be read separately, or as part of a whole, and yet, each thematic is closed with its chapter.
The main character of the novel Eugene Onegin is another “Byron” figure in Russian literature. He was a nobleman who left Petersburg to live in the country. He was educated, accustomed to comfort and “idleness”, and one which he truly yearned for were love adventures. All this leads him to depression, so he begins to worry about the big problems of the world and society, and sharing “pain of the world”. His restless spirit prevents him from settling down with a woman who loves him and that he can provide with a comfortable family home. Therefore, Eugene is finally left all alone and discouraged.
The figure of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin is used in literature to introduce a prototype “superfluous man”, who would later be a model for the main character in many other literary works. “Superfluous man” is the one that, because of the socio-political changes, ends at the margins of society, without its character and completely unnecessary. Therefore, that man collapses, without any meaning or role in society, often impoverished and literally hungry, and without the meaning of existence.
In the novel, the Pushkin created a special kind of verse, consisting of 14 verses later called “Onegin stanza” or “Pushkin sonnet”. The novel was translated into many languages and adapted for movies, operas, and songs. The most famous work is eponymous opera by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Genre: novel in verses
Time: around the 19th century
Everything starts with a description of a boy Eugene. He is described throughout the book as he grows. He was extremely talented and intelligent. He knew history, economy, Latin, was kind to the ladies and was a good person to talk to. He was invited to different events which he always attended.
He dedicated a lot of his attention to his looks and he always wore the best suits and used expensive perfumes. His office décor was from Paris and London and everything was decorated to the minor detail.
The storyteller, that is considered to be Pushkin himself, often inserts his own comments and monologs. He voices his opinion and talks to the boy.
The book begins with a dance he attended. He was there until morning hours and we meet Elvina, a girl he fancies and whose legs he couldn’t get out of his head.
He wasn’t in a good mood. His lifestyle left some consequences. He became cranky, had no desire to meet women, became lazy and stopped reading books. The storyteller lets us know that he had the same lifestyle and that they became friends because of that.
They enjoyed spending time together but the storyteller wanted to go back to Russia .Onegin wanted to keep him company on his journey but couldn’t. His father died and left many debts behind. Onegin did not feel like going to court so he just let them take everything from him because he was counting on his rich uncle to leave him a big inheritance.
When he heard his uncle was about to die, he decided to head towards him to make sure he’ll be getting the money. He arrived too late and the uncle was already dead but Onegin inherited everything. He then began his life on the countryside.
At the beginning, we have the description of the village and the castle where Onegin lived. He thought that the life in the village was boring so he decided to make a new law. Because of that everyone thought of him as a weird man.
Then Vladimir Lensky is introduced into the story. He was an 18 years old guy who was completely different from Onegin. He was kind, full of energy and passion. For him friendship was sacred and he lived for the day he’ll meet his soul mate. He did not like to go out much or attend noisy events. He only had one desire and that was to meet Onegin.
Even though they were completely different they became friends. They talked about everything and so Onegin found out about Olga, a girl on who Lensky had a crush on. The storyteller inserts his comment here and says that Olga was nice, kind, shy and calm but that he firstly wants to talk about her sister Tatyana.
Tatyana loved a peaceful life and enjoyed reading novels like her mother. Her mother got married again and moved to a village where her new spouse lived before the marriage. She liked it there but soon it got boring. She managed to control her husband who loved her deeply. Soon he died and Lenksy went to his grave. He reminisced about him and remembered how he wanted him and Olga to be together.
Lensky and Onegin talk about Tatyana and Olga again. Lensky wanted to visit her family and after a short discussion, Onegin goes with him. After the visit, Onegin had questions about Tatyana because he found her interesting. The whole village was guessing which one of them will be Tatyana’s future husband. Tatyana thought about them and realized that Onegin was everything she ever looked for in a man.
After that, the storyteller reveals what will happen later on in the novel. He tells us about the conversation between Tatyana and her nanny where she tells her that she has feelings for Onegin. She also asked her for a piece of paper to write him a letter.
Tatyana wrote that she fell in love with him at first sight and that she wouldn’t have written him the letter if she had any chance of meeting him. Tatyana finished the letter the next day and sent it to him by her nanny’s grandson.
Two days passed by and Onegin had no response. Lensky visited Olga and she asked about Onegin. He told her that he’ll come visit today and that he couldn’t before because he was caught up with some mail.
Tatyana waited for him impatiently and when he arrived the storyteller tells us that he’ll continue his writing later when he goes for a walk and gets some sleep.
Because of some unpleasant love experiences, Onegin tells Tatyana that he was in love with a girl for 8 years but that he isn’t anymore now. He also told her that her letter did not leave him indifferent and mentions that she would be a perfect wife for him if he ever decided to get married. He confessed that he loved her in a brother-sister way and maybe a little bit more than that but that he will fall in love again and that she should not feel bad about the situation.
Tatyana became sadder as the days passed by while Lensky and Olga got happier. They spent more and more time together and wrote each other love letters.
Winter came and Onegin spent his days enjoying the laziness. He was visited by Lensky who told him that it was Tatyana’s name day. Onegin told him he’ll visit her and Lensky tells him his big secret. He and Olga will be getting married.
Tatyana enjoyed the Russian winter and snow. The snow fell before her name day in January. The plot of the fifth chapter begins with Tatyana’s dream. She had a terrible nightmare in which Onegin killed Lensky. It kept her stressed for days. She felt that something bad was about to happen.
Tatyana had many guests including Lensky and Onegin. Onegin was feeling uncomfortable for sitting next to Tatyana. She was also concerned about that but when he congratulated her on her name day she felt relieved.
Onegin wanted to get back at Lensky for bringing him her into this inconvenience. He did it by grabbing Olga into his arms and dancing with her. They danced for a very long time and it made Lensky furious. The chapter ends with him going home to get the guns.
Onegin was pleased with his revenge. Tatyana was tormented by what she saw and couldn’t fall asleep. The writer again lets us know that he’ll finish the story some other time.
The plot moves to Zaretsky. He was an honest man and Onegin friends who visited him one morning. He brought him a message with which Lensky invited him to confront him. Onegin accepts the challenge and Zaretsky leaves. Onegin then thinks that he was not supposed to get himself involved in this mess. Lensky was surprised with Onegin’s acceptance and the fight was supposed to take place the next day by the mill.
The morning arrived and both of them were headed to the mill. The guns were ready and they had to be 16 feet away from each other. When they got the distance right they turned to each other and aimed at each other. Onegin was faster and he managed to shot Lensky. He felt bad about it but there was nothing that he could do.
The storyteller showed us how life would be with Lensky. He reveals that Lensky was buried by the creek, underneath the pines. While people were walking by his grave many were wondering about the lives of the living, Onegin, Olga and Tatyana.
The storyteller tells us will be finding that out later on and that now he will talk about his life.
In this chapter, the storyteller lets us know that spring arrived. Also, we find out that Olga got married, Tatyana was left alone and Onegin disappeared from the village.
During a walk, Tatyana visited Onegin’s house and it touched her so much that she did it again the next day. She entered the library and while she was going through his books she noticed that he used to write his comments on the books.
Her mother decides that it is best for her to leave for Moscow and find herself a husband as soon as possible. With a great sadness, she said goodbye to the village.
After a long journey Tatyana, her mother and aunt arrive at another aunt’s house. She had tuberculosis for a very long time now. Soon Tatyana was entertained by many friends and her family was trying to find her a husband. In the end, they found her a certain general but at first sight, she did not care much for him and realized she wouldn’t like him.
The storyteller tells us that he met a girl while he was a student. He also saw Onegin. He was 26 years old, had no family and did nothing. He traveled a lot but nothing helped him to get his dead friend out of his head. He attended a dance and there he saw an important woman that reminded him of Tatyana. He asked the duke who was she and his response was that it is Tatyana, his wife. They were married for already two years.
Later on, they invited Onegin to dinner. He then realized that he still loves her and could not accept her indifference. He wrote her a letter. Even though he got ill then he refused to go to a hospital.
In the letter, Onegin told her that he loved her. He wrote two more letters but never got a response. He decided to visit her. Tatyana told him that her mother made her get married and then we hear the duke coming. That is the end of the novel.
Characters: Onegin, Lensky, Olga, Tatyana, storyteller
Eugene Onegin – he was popular and well-known in high society. He wanted to state his mind on many events but it all sounded superficial because he had no high education. He was practical with the great sense for the economy but had no taste in art, not literature. Since he belonged to a certain type of society he acted like them – slept a lot, went to dances and other events, went to the theater and often socialized with the actresses. He was charming and knew how to get to women. He often played with them and broke their hearts. He got what he wanted no matter the price. Onegin was often a hypocrite and had a bad character. He was cranky and often not satisfied with the life he had.
Tatyana – beautiful and shy girl. She grew up in a village, in a calm environment and spent her days reading novels. She loved to be alone and therefore she left an impression of herself as a mysterious woman. She wanted to feel love and she fell in love with Onegin at first sight. Her life was submissive to him from that moment on and all she wanted to do was to see him. She was honest and kind-hearted with little experience in love. She couldn’t keep her feeling for herself so she wrote Onegin a letter declaring her love for him. Onegin’s rejection threw her into the adults world. Even though she had to grow up fast she was never bitter or frustrated. She got used to new life conditions even despite the fact that she did not approve of them. She wanted a marriage and a family and was not ready to break her promise to her husband. For her, her honor and honesty were much more important than the love she had for Onegin. When she grew up she started to look at the world in a more realistic way and she kept her romantic side aside.
Lensky – an 18 years old young man who was studying in Germany when he got intoxicated with the German authors Goethe and Schiller. He was full of life and he felt passion towards it. He had a temper and freedom, love and friendship were the only ideals he approved of. He loved the nature and life in the village even though he did not care much for the people who lived there. He was young, beautiful, rich and an eligible bachelor. Onegin was his friend and he listened to his stories because he found them interesting. He was in love with Olga and above all, he was very faithful to her. In the end, he was the victim of his own ideals. His friend killed him and Olga married somebody else.
Alexander Pushkin Biography
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was a Russian poet, novelist, dramatic. He was born in 1799 in Moscow. He is considered to be one of the best authors of Russian modern literature and one of the best poets.
He came from a wealthy family and in his early childhood he was raised by a serf. In 1811, his family sent him away to school and then he started his writing.
He socialized with many intellectuals and they made his work even stronger. The Emperor censored his works and limited his freedom as a writer. The period between 1828 and 1836 was the most fertile for Pushkin and the Russian literature.
He wrote and worked in the castle and in 1831 he got married. Some of his works are: “Mozart and Salieri”, “A feast in time of Plague” , “The Prisoner of Caucasus”, and his life work is “Eugene Onegin”.
He died in 1837.