Act 1[ edit ] Scene 1: The garden of the Larin country estate Madame Larina and the nurse Filippyevna are sitting outside in the garden. Madame Larina begins to reminisce about her own courtship and marriage. A group of peasants enter, and celebrate the harvest with songs and dances. Tatyana and Olga watch. Tatyana has been reading a romantic novel and is absorbed by the story; her carefree sister, on the other hand, wants to join in the celebrations.
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Start your review of Eugeniusz Oniegin Write a review Shelves: my-childhood-bookshelves , reads , books-from-childhood-revisited I dare you, double-triple-dog dare you, to find a Russian person who has never heard of Evgeniy Onegin. If you do somehow manage to find this living-under-the-rock person, I unfortunately cannot provide you with a monetary reward since I have no money to speak of. Children read it in literature class and are made to memorize passages from it starting in elementary school.
There are operas, ballets, and films. The phrases from it have become aphorisms and are still widely used in the Russian language. And yet I think most of us, when you get to the bottom of things, have only superficial recollections of it, the bits and pieces of storyline which may or may not feature a love story?
The peasant, triumphant And this is why I embarked on a re-read - and as a result having unintentionally impressed my literature teacher mother yay, the perks of Pushkin! I wonder - is it a coincidence that my brother and I have the names of Alexander Pushkin and his wife Natalie?
I wanted to discover those gems that critics and teachers see, and which evaded me the first time I read it at seven and then at fifteen. And, reader, I found them! That seems like a huge feat to accomplish - and it did take Pushkin a decade to complete and publish it. The plot of the novel can be easily seen as a love story - if you strip it down to its most basic elements, of course.
A bored rich noble Evgeniy Onegin comes from the capital to a rural part of Russia, meets a young and naively passionate Tatyana Larina, a daughter of a local rural noble, and spurns her naive affections expressed in a passionate letter to him. A few years later, Onegin runs into Tatiana in St Petersburg - now a married sophisticated lady of the higher society - and is smitten; but his affections get spurned by the older and wiser Tatiana who delivers a famous line that although she still loves Evgeniy, she "belong[s] to another and will be forever faithful to him".
End of story. What this simplified version that sticks in the minds of many readers years later lacks is exactly what makes this a great novel as opposed to yet another 19th century romance. Evgeniy is your typical "Byronic" young man, fashionably disenchanted with life, suffering from "хандра" - the Russian expression for ennui - and fashionably, as learned from the books something that enamored with him Tatyana discovers to her distress , showing his tiredness of the world and showing off his trendy cynicism.
Tatyana Larina, in contrast to Evgeniy, has always been the darling of Russian literature. She is viewed as uniquely Russian the fact that Pushkin himself emphasizes, even when he acknowledges that like many of the Russian nobles of that time, Tatyana had a hard time speaking Russian , the embodiment of what a perfect Russian woman should be - sincere, idealistic and passionate, and yet strong, resilient and faithful to her partner despite the temptations.
Her rejection of Evgeniy is viewed as undeniable integrity and strength of character, and the unwavering ability to self-sacrifice for what is right. She steals the stage from Evgeniy so effortlessly and naturally to become a heroine and not just the girl in love.
And yet, as I was reading this novel now, likely at least a decade older than Tatyana when she falls in love, I could not help but notice the bits in her character that made me question her place on the pedestal of ultimate Russian womanhood - and because of that actually made her more dear and more relatable to me.
You see, the sincerity and passion with which Tatyana embraced her young love on this read-through did not really pass my scrutiny. She plays the role of a typical quiet, introspective, shy, pale and dreamy young woman very well, having internalized the idea of a romantic heroine. Her passionate letter, written in French, is open and brave - but yet, on a closer reading, full of cliches that are clearly taken out of romance novels that kept her company throughout adolescence.
So basically what I see here is the meeting of two people both of whom are instinctively and therefore very sincerely playing the exact roles society and culture expect them to play - the world-weary Evgeniy and the romantically passionate Tatyana.
The conventions they both pander to is what does not allow them to be happy. Tatyana three years later, having turned into a refined Petersburg married lady commanding respect and admiration, appears a much more interesting character - to Onegin as well, unsurprisingly. But her astounding transformation really seems to be just another role she tries on and fulfills with the same aptitude as she did the role of a romantic provincial young woman in love.
Tatyana wears her new expectations as a glove - and so does Evgeniy, madly falling in love with her just as would be expected for a young dandy meeting a refined alluring woman of higher society.
An ideal Russian woman? Perhaps not. A young woman tragically caught in the web of societal and cultural expectations in her youth and now in her adulthood? Perhaps so. And in this, I think, is the strength and the tragedy of this story. Pushkin seems to have felt the societal conventions very well to so exquisitely poke fun at them while showing very subtly the pain they can lead to.
He shows the tragedy of yet another societal convention of establishing masculinity and honor - the duels. Onegin kills his friend Lensky in a duel that both of them know is not necessary but yet expected by the society - and Pushkin is not subtle about showing the wasteful unnecessity of such an act. And this is why neither me nor my literature teacher mother can even fathom how, in winter of , year-old Alexander Pushkin himself allowed ridiculous societal convention to take his life, losing his life in a duel which supposedly happened over a woman - the duel he described so aptly years prior in his masterpiece.
Bookworm buffs - check this out. What was going on with Russian literary geniuses recognizing the futility and tragedy of conventions leading to duels and then dying in the same manner that they described and mocked?
As Pushkin wrote it when he has fallen out of favor, when he was in his Southern exile, he had Onegin travel all over Russia coming in contact with events and sights that the poet had eventually prudently decided were not risking his freedom over publishing and so destroyed those parts. How much do I wish those chapters have survived intact!
There may have been some added depth to the character of the ultimate Russian world-weary dandy had they survived.
Eugeniusz Oniegin - streszczenie