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Onegin is considered a classic of Russian literature , and its eponymous protagonist has served as the model for a number of Russian literary heroes so-called superfluous men. It was published in serial form between and The first complete edition was published in , and the currently accepted version is based on the publication.
Almost the entire work is made up of fourteen-line stanzas 5, lines in all of iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "AbAbCCddEffEgg", where the uppercase letters represent feminine rhymes while the lowercase letters represent masculine rhymes. This form has come to be known as the " Onegin stanza " or the "Pushkin sonnet. The story is told by a narrator a lightly fictionalized version of Pushkin's public image , whose tone is educated, worldly, and intimate.
The narrator digresses at times, usually to expand on aspects of this social and intellectual world. This narrative style allows for a development of the characters and emphasizes the drama of the plot despite its relative simplicity.
The book is admired for the artfulness of its verse narrative as well as for its exploration of life, death, love, ennui, convention, and passion. In the s, Eugene Onegin is a bored St. Petersburg dandy , whose life consists of balls, concerts, parties, and nothing more. Upon the death of a wealthy uncle, he inherits a substantial fortune and a landed estate. When he moves to the country, he strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, a starry-eyed young poet named Vladimir Lensky.
At this meeting, he also catches a glimpse of Olga's sister Tatyana. A quiet, precocious romantic, and the exact opposite of Olga, Tatyana becomes intensely drawn to Onegin. Soon after, she bares her soul to Onegin in a letter professing her love.
Contrary to her expectations, Onegin does not write back. When they meet in person, he rejects her advances politely but dismissively and condescendingly. This famous speech is often referred to as Onegin's Sermon : he admits that the letter was touching, but says that he would quickly grow bored with marriage and can only offer Tatyana friendship; he coldly advises more emotional control in the future, lest another man take advantage of her innocence.
Later, Lensky mischievously invites Onegin to Tatyana's name day celebration, promising a small gathering with just Tatyana, Olga, and their parents. When Onegin arrives, he finds instead a boisterous country ball, a rural parody of and contrast to the society balls of St. Petersburg of which he has grown tired. Onegin is irritated with the guests who gossip about him and Tatyana, and with Lensky for persuading him to come. He decides to avenge himself by dancing and flirting with Olga.
Earnest and inexperienced, Lensky is wounded to the core and challenges Onegin to fight a duel; Onegin reluctantly accepts, feeling compelled by social convention.
During the duel, Onegin unwillingly kills Lensky. Afterwards, he quits his country estate, traveling abroad to deaden his feelings of remorse. Tatyana visits Onegin's mansion, where she looks through his books and his notes in the margins, and begins to question whether Onegin's character is merely a collage of different literary heroes, and if there is, in fact, no "real Onegin". Tatyana, still brokenhearted by the loss of Onegin, is convinced by her parents to live with her aunt in Moscow in order to find a suitor.
Several years pass, and the scene shifts to St. Onegin has come to attend the most prominent balls and interact with the leaders of old Russian society. He sees the most beautiful woman, who captures the attention of all and is central to society's whirl, and he realizes that it is the same Tatyana whose love he had once spurned. Now she is married to an aged prince a general. Upon seeing Tatyana again, he becomes obsessed with winning her affection, despite the fact that she is married.
However, his attempts are rebuffed. He writes her several letters, but receives no reply. Eventually Onegin manages to see Tatyana and offers her the opportunity to finally elope after they have become reacquainted.
She recalls the days when they might have been happy, but concludes that that time has passed. Onegin repeats his love for her. Faltering for a moment, she admits that she still loves him, but she will not allow him to ruin her and declares her determination to remain faithful to her husband.
She leaves him regretting his bitter destiny. One of the main themes of Eugene Onegin is the relationship between fiction and real life. People are often shaped by art, and the work is packed with allusions to other major literary works. Pushkin, in the final chapter, fuses his Muse and Tatyana's new 'form' in society after a lengthy description of how she has guided him in his works. Perhaps the darkest theme — despite the light touch of the narration — is Pushkin's presentation of the deadly inhumanity of social convention.
Onegin is its bearer in this work. His induction into selfishness, vanity, and indifference occupies the introduction, and he is unable to escape it when he moves to the country. His inability to relate to the feelings of others and his entire lack of empathy — the cruelty instilled in him by the "world" — is epitomized in the very first stanza of the first book by his stunningly self-centered thoughts about being with the dying uncle whose estate he is to inherit:.
However, the "devil comes for Onegin" when he both literally and figuratively kills innocence and sincerity in shooting Lensky in the duel and rejecting Tatyana. Tatyana learns her lesson: armored against feelings and steeped in convention, she crushes his later sincerity and remorse.
This epic reversal of roles, and the work's broad social perspectives, provide ample justification for its subtitle "a novel in verse". Tatyana's nightmare illustrates the concealed aggression of the "world". In the dream, she is chased over a frozen winter landscape by a terrifying bear representing the ferocity of Onegin's inhuman persona and confronted by demons and goblins in a hut she hopes will provide shelter.
This nightmare is contrasted to the open vitality of the "real" people at the country ball, giving dramatic emphasis to the war of warm human feelings against the chilling artificiality of society. Thus, Onegin has lost his love, killed his only friend, and found no satisfaction in his life. He is a victim of his own pride and selfishness. He is doomed to loneliness, and this is his tragedy.
The conflict between art and life was no mere fiction in Russia, but is in fact illustrated by Pushkin's own fate: he too was killed in a duel, falling victim to the social conventions of Russian high society.
As with many other 19th-century novels , Onegin was written and published serially , with parts of each chapter often appearing in magazines before the first printing of each chapter.
Many changes, some small and some large, were made from the first appearance to the final edition during Pushkin's lifetime. The following dates mostly come from Nabokov's study of the photographs of Pushkin's drafts that were available at the time, as well as other people's work on the subject.
The remaining stanzas were completed and added to his notebook by the first week of October Chapter 1 was first published as a whole in a booklet on February 16, , with a foreword which suggests that Pushkin had no clear plan on how or even whether he would continue the novel. Chapter 2 was started on October 22, the date when most of chapter 1 had been finished , and finished by December 8, except for stanzas XL and XXXV, which were added sometime over the next three months.
The first separate edition of chapter 2 appeared on October 20, Many events occurred which interrupted the writing of chapter 3. Pushkin incurred the displeasure of the Tsarist regime in Odessa and was restricted to his family estate Mikhaylovskoye in Pskov for two years.
He left Odessa on July 21, , and arrived on August 9. The first separate publication of chapter 3 was on October 10, Chapter 4 was started in October By the end of the year, Pushkin had written 23 stanzas and had reached XXVII by January 5, , at which point he started writing stanzas for Onegin's Journey and worked on other pieces of writing.
He thought that it was finished on September 12, , but later continued the process of rearranging, adding, and omitting stanzas until the first week of The first separate edition of chapter 4 appeared with chapter 5 in a publication produced between January 31 and February 2, The writing of chapter 5 began on January 4, , and 24 stanzas were complete before the start of his trip to petition the Tsar for his freedom. He left for this trip on September 4 and returned on November 2, He completed the rest of the chapter in the week November 15 to 22, The first separate edition of chapter 5 appeared with chapter 4 in a publication produced between January 31 and February 2, When Nabokov carried out his study on the writing of Onegin, the manuscript of chapter 6 was lost, but it is known that Pushkin started chapter 6 before finishing chapter 5.
Most of chapter 6 appears to have been written before the beginning of December 19, when Pushkin returned to Moscow after exile on his family estate. Many stanzas appeared to have been written between November 22 and 25, On March 23, , the first separate edition of chapter 6 was published.
Pushkin started writing chapter 7 in March , but aborted his original plan for the plot of the chapter and started on a different tack, completing the chapter on November 4, The first separate edition of chapter 7 was first printed on March 18, Pushkin intended to write a chapter called "Onegin's Journey", which occurred between the events of chapters 7 and 8, and in fact was supposed to be the eighth chapter.
Fragments of this incomplete chapter were published, in the same way that parts of each chapter had been published in magazines before each chapter was first published in a separate edition.
When Pushkin completed chapter 8, he published it as the final chapter and included within its denouement the line nine cantos I have written , still intending to complete this missing chapter. When Pushkin finally decided to abandon this chapter, he removed parts of the ending to fit with the change.
Chapter 8 was begun before December 24, , while Pushkin was in St. In August , he went to Boldino the Pushkin family estate   where, due to an epidemic of cholera , he was forced to stay for three months. During this time, he produced what Nabokov describes as an "incredible number of masterpieces" and finished copying out chapter 8 on September 25, During the summer of , Pushkin revised and completed chapter 8 apart from "Onegin's Letter", which was completed on October 5, The first separate edition of chapter 8 appeared on January 10, Pushkin wrote at least 18 stanzas of a never-completed tenth chapter.
It contained many satires and even direct criticism on contemporary Russian rulers, including the Emperor himself. Afraid of being prosecuted for dissidence, Pushkin burnt most of the tenth chapter. Very little of it survived in Pushkin's notebooks. The first complete edition of the book was published in Slight corrections were made by Pushkin for the edition. The standard accepted text is based on the edition with a few changes due to the Tsar's censorship restored.
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