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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 352

Pushkin's masterpiece of narrative verse was inspired by the 1824 flood of the Neva River, on whose banks the city of St. Petersburg had been built. It commences with a forward which tells of the decision of Peter the Great to erect the great city to "Cut through a window to the West, and guard our seaboard with conviction." The narrator jumps ahead to describe the splendor, vitality, and military might of the existing city, while foreshadowing the tragic tale about to unfold.

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It is now November of 1824. As dark clouds and harsh rains begin to pelt St. Petersburg and its inhabitants, the poem's point-of-view shifts to that of a simple clerk named Yevgeny. Alone in his shabby abode, he contemplates his future and dreams of a better life with his fiance, Parasha. He is anxious that the fierce storm may separate them for days.

The rains lead to a flood of epic scale, which obliterates most of the city's structures, leaving thousands dead in its wake. Yevegeny, somewhat bizarrely, awakens to find himself seated on the marble statues of a pair of sentry lions. Surrounded by the still-cresting waters of the Neva, he is unable to move.

As the waters begin to recede, Yevgeny takes a ferry across the river to the home of Parasha, terrified by her possible plight. Once there, he finds her home badly damaged, and no sign of her or her family. The narrator's voice comments, "Is all our lives devoid of sense, a dream: Fate's jest at man's expense?"

Grief-stricken, Yevgeny loses his mind. He never returns to his room or job, but wanders the streets of the now-ruined metropolis aimlessly, his clothes falling to rags. In his madness, he threatens the statue of the Bronze Horseman, from which he then flees in terror, imagining the statue in vengeful pursuit.

The poem ends in almost filmic style, as the narrator visually relates the discovery of Yevgeny's final resting place:

A battered hut....It was bare and almost wrecked. Outside, unwitting, they stumbled upon Yevgeny near the threshold. His remains were here interred with simple rites, as fitting.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 793

The Bronze Horseman is regarded as one of Pushkin’s masterpieces. Pushkin created the poem out of a complex web of personal, literary, and political themes, so that it is not surprising that interpretations of the poem have differed widely.

The poem consists of an introductory section and two parts. The title is taken from the statue of Peter the Great that stands in St. Petersburg on the banks of the Neva. Pushkin based the poem on a historical incident, namely the devastating flood that hit St. Petersburg in 1824. The introduction, however, begins many years before the flood. Peter the Great is depicted as standing on the site that was to become St. Petersburg, looking out over the desolate waters of the Baltic. He sees only swampy marshlands and dark woods but fatefully declares the founding of a great city that will “open a window onto Europe.” One hundred years have passed since Peter’s vision, and there is a prosperous city in place of the marshland. The thoughts and impressions of the narrator become enmeshed with the description of the city. He speaks of his love for the austere harmony of the city, praising Peter’s creation.

In part 1 of the poem, there is an abrupt change in tone. It is a cold, windy day in St. Petersburg as a young man named Eugene makes his way home. Once safely home, he tries to go to sleep but is kept awake by his own worries. He wants to gain his share of financial independence, even though he will have to work hard to do so. He is also kept awake by thoughts of the rising river. If the bridges are flooded, he will be separated from his betrothed, who lives on one of the islands in the...

(The entire section contains 1145 words.)

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