The Queen of Spades stands at the peak of Pushkin’s achievement in prose writing. The story was popular with the general reading public at the time, particularly for its striking plot. The story opens with a number of young officers conversing after a card game. One of them, Narumov, wonders why his grandmother, who possesses the secret of winning at the game of faro, never plays. It is revealed that she was once an avid gambler and was given the secret of the game on the promise of using it only once to save her from poverty.
Hermann, a German engineering officer who usually never gambles, becomes obsessed with discovering the secret from the countess. He begins a correspondence with the countess’s young companion, Lizaveta, who hopes that Hermann will deliver her from her poor position. They arrange to meet, but once inside the house, he confronts the old countess. When she refuses to reveal the secret, he pulls out a gun, and she dies of fright. During the countess’s funeral, it seems as if the corpse winks at Hermann, and that night her ghost visits him and gives him the secret of winning. Hermann places the bets over three consecutive days. On the third day, he loses on the last card, the queen of spades. Having lost all of his money, he goes mad.
The story is a society tale, and part of its appeal, particularly at that time, was its depiction of the cold glamour that characterized fashionable society. Pushkin achieved the ultimate concision...
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