Eugene Onegin Readalong, 3 & 4

Eugene Onegin Readalong, 3 & 4

I've read two more chapters, and Tatiana has met Onegin.  Although she has only met him once, and barely spoken with him, she falls for him hard.  Her habitual pensive mood becomes a fretful preoccupation that follows a time-honored formula: as any proper heroine would do, she can't sleep or eat.   Finally she does something that would be truly shocking to her family and society: she writes Onegin a letter declaring her feelings, and waits on tenterhooks for a response.  Onegin gently but firmly refuses Tatiana and leaves her to yearn and pine away, which she does, while he leads a solitary and restful country life.  But then Lensky wants him to go to dinner and meet the whole family again--oh, dear.

Tanglewood has more questions:

Chapters 3 & 4 Questions

- Impressions of Tatyana and Olga?

They are both so young!  Poor Tatiana, she's never met young men or had crushes before, and this just bowls her over.  I can't help thinking that nowadays we'd call it a crush and wait for her to get over it, but in her milieu, with only romantic novels to go on, she is sure that this is a once-in-a-lifetime true love.

- What do you make of Onegin's reaction to Tatyana?
He is remarkably sensible and decent, and though he is not exactly kind, that's a good thing.  He just tells her no, that she doesn't really know him and it would never work, and he leaves, planning not to see her again.  This is exactly what you would hope a man of 26 would say to your 17-year-old daughter.  It is not, however, what you expect out of the hero of a poetic novel from the early 19th century!  He could so easily have acted like Willoughby (from Sense and Sensibility), or he could have accepted her love and the story could have been a romance.  Pushkin uses a third, unexpected option, which I love.  This is the thing that makes me like Onegin, because I never thought much of him before. 

- How does the story, thus far, compare or contrast with another classic romantic novel (of your choice)?
Oh.  Well, I guess I'll go with Sense and Sensibility, having already referred to it.  Tatiana, come to think of it, is much like a quiet, reserved Marianne, don't you think?  She doesn't talk like Marianne but she's been doing some very similar things.  But Onegin, being a decent fellow and not a charming blackguard like Willoughby, doesn't lead Tatiana on.

Ongoing Questions

- Reactions and/or predictions?
I think I already talked about those.

- Any quotes or passages that stand out?

I really liked this verse about Tatiana's love of novels, and the craze for Gothic horrors.  The previous verses detail Tatiana's fondness for certain authors and how the hero of such a book would always act virtuously.  The last bit about Byron cracks me up.
But nowadays all minds are clouded, 
A moral brings on somnolence, 
Vice in the novel, too, is lauded 
And there has gained pre-eminence.  
The British Muse's tales intrude on 
The Slumber of our Russian maiden, 
And now she's ready to adore 
Either the pensive vampire or 
The vagrant Melmoth, restless, gloomy, 
The Wandering Jew or the Corsair 
Or the mysterious Shogar.  
Lord Byron's whim most opportunely 
Clothed even hopeless egotism 
In woebegone romanticism.

And on Onegin himself: his first youth he'd fallen prey
To stormy errors and delusions
And passion's unrestricted play.
Spoiled by the life he had been granted,
By one thing for a while enchanted
Another disenchanting him,
Thwarted desire tormenting him,
Tormented, too, by quick successes,
Hearing amid the noise and lull
The timeless mutter of the soul,
A yawn with laughter he suppresses:
Precisely so, eight years he killed,
His prime thus passing, unfulfilled.


  1. Now I think Onegins's behavior is very sober and decent. But I remember that when I read it at school, I thought "what a jerk! To refuse looooove! Unthinkable!" Well, we all grow up :)

  2. That's the interesting thing about it, to me--yes, I would have thought the same in school. We are used to a particular kind of story, and we expect certain results--and Pushkin breaks them. From a realism POV, Onegin does the right thing. From a romantic POV, he's a cold-hearted jerk. Actually maybe he's both?

  3. I'm not even sure she has fallen in love with him - it is her reaction to the rumours of his love for her that inspired her and her dreaming of those lovesick heros in her novels, which combined channeled her mind towards Eugene.

    She needs an outlet to express herself and so the letter is born and Eugene becomes the object of her desire.

    I am looking forward to the next visit to the family home to see what happens.

  4. "From a realism POV, Onegin does the right thing. From a romantic POV, he's a cold-hearted jerk. Actually maybe he's both?"

    This is the paradox that makes me like Onegin so much. :) I tend to think he did the right thing (bring Tatyana back to the real world) for the wrong reasons (his own ego). But it really is subject to interpretation! Great post.

  5. Yes, I think that covers it, Marian. :)

    Claire, I think you make a very good point. It's not even so much a crush as it is an outlet for her built-up feelings...


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