Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Eugene Onegin is considered Pushkin’s most outstanding and characteristic work. It has been called the first Russian novel because of its firm grasp of character and its realistic presentation of scenes of Russian life. Pushkin combines the virtues of slow development of character and situation of the novel with the quick epigrammatic wit of the discursive poem. He combines the pathos of a psychologically plausible affair of the heart with the charm of genre painting. The work reflects the author’s own gradual growth as a writer, since it was written and revised over a period of nearly ten years.
The novel is written in fourteen-line stanzas, known simply as the Onegin stanza, since there have been no other attempts to create a work using this verse form. The stanza implements an intricate rhyme scheme, which ends in a couplet. The couplet rounds off the stanza and invites an epigrammatic or aphoristic conclusion. The typical stanza contains a proposition, an exposition elaborating it, and a summation with a final flash of wit.
The plot of the novel is very simple, and its loose form allows for a wealth of description and poetic excursus. Only approximately one-third of the novel is concerned with the plot. The rest consists of descriptive passages and the narrator’s digressions on the theater, literary or social polemics, amorous recollections, or soliloquies on literary art.
The events of the novel are set in the...
(The entire section is 818 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Eugene Onegin is brought up in the aristocratic tradition. Although he has little classical background, he has a flashing wit, and he is well read in economics. He becomes an accomplished man of the world by the time he reaches young adulthood. In fact, he is so successful in love and so accustomed to the social life of Moscow that he habitually feels a supreme boredom with life. Even the ballet lately fails to hold his attention.
Eugene’s father leads the usual life. He gives parties regularly and tries his best to keep up his social position by borrowing recklessly. Just as he declares bankruptcy, Eugene receives word that his uncle is dying. Since he is the heir, he leaves in haste to attend the dying man. Grumbling, meanwhile, at the call of duty, he is thankful to be coming into an inheritance.
His uncle, however, dies before he arrives. After the relatives depart, Eugene settles down to enjoy his uncle’s handsome country estate. The cool woods and the fertile fields charm him at first, but after two days of country life his former boredom returns. He soon acquires a reputation as an eccentric. If neighbors call, Eugene finds himself obliged to leave on an urgent errand. After a while, the neighbors leave him to himself.
Vladimir Lensky, however, remains his friend. At eighteen, Vladimir is still romantic and filled with illusions of life and love. He was in Germany, where he was much influenced by the philosopher Immanuel...
(The entire section is 1133 words.)