Monday, February 3, 2014

Eugene Onegin Readalong, 5 & 6

Eugene Onegin Readalong, 5 & 6

Here we are on chapters 5 and 6 of Eugene Onegin, and it's getting really sad.  While Lensky and Olga prepare for their wedding and live in bliss, Tatiana is melancholy and pining away after Onegin, who stays away as much as possible.  Tatiana has a truly bizarre dream that portends future events.  Then, at her name-day festival, Onegin is seated near her because of the local gossip that has paired them up; she is mortified, but he is so kind that she feels somewhat better.  During the dancing, however, Onegin is not so well-behaved.  Seized by a contrary mood, he monopolizes Olga, dancing and flirting with her.  Olga is flattered but doesn't seem to take it seriously.  Lensky becomes very jealous, and challenges Onegin to a duel.  Onegin regrets his actions and wants to make up with Lensky, but honor must be satisfied; the two men duel with pistols and Onegin promptly kills Lensky without ever speaking to him.


Chapters 5 & 6 Questions

- One of my favorite scenes is Tatyana's dream.  How do you interpret it?  Any ideas as to why it is usually omitted from major adaptations (including Tchaikovsky's opera and the 1999 film)?
The dream is really interesting, and would make a fantastic opera scene.  Why would Tchaikovsky leave it out?  I can't really offer a great interpretation, but it seems to me that the monsters and animals that surround Onegin are probably the associates and habits that have rendered him useless and full of ennui at the young age of 26.  Then there is the portent of temper and Lensky's death.

- Chapter 6 finds us in the middle of sudden disputes and high drama.  What might be the characters' motivations for such extreme actions?  Is it substance, or superficiality?  Is anybody right or wrong - and if so, who?
I think Onegin pushes things a bit by flirting with Olga, but it's only a medium-serious incident.  Olga doesn't really care and we know Onegin doesn't.  Poor Lensky's reaction is natural but he only has two options, neither of which are very good.  There isn't a middle way; I so wish those two boys could just talk to each other for a minute.  It would be much better if Lensky could just punch Onegin or something and then they could make up.  Convention and misguided ideas about honor lead them to a fatal duel.  (Maybe Pushkin would see it differently, since he was such an enthusiastic duellist himself, but maybe he's saying that this particular incident is not worth it.)  Onegin can't apologize or talk with his friend, because then everyone will call him a coward--so he kills his friend instead.  A fairly minor incident leads to a tragic death.

Ongoing Questions

- Reactions and/or predictions?

This part is so sad and awful.  I think Onegin's real shallowness of character comes out in how he flirts with Olga without thinking of his friend's feelings. 

- Any quotes or passages that stand out? 

3 comments:

cleopatra said...

Jean, did you notice that during the duel Onegin raised his pistol first? What did you think of that; it has me puzzled?? It seemed to give him an advantage over Lensky yet nothing was made of it, so perhaps it's not important.

Jean said...

I did. I'm not even sure Lensky managed to get a shot off. I don't know WHAT to think about that. I would have thought Onegin would at least try to aim down at a leg or off to the side. IRL, duelling pistols were only barely accurate and it wasn't too easy to hit a target, but you'd aim at a leg instead of the chest if you didn't want to kill the guy, or fire in the air if you really didn't want to. Was Onegin worried that Lensky would kill him and so tried to get in first? I have no idea.

cleopatra said...

Or was Onegin practiced enough in duelling to know that he could raise his pistol first and still get off a good shot, yet Lensky was somewhat inept and kind of bungled it? We probably won't get a definitive answer but I found it interesting.