Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 1 & 2

Eugene Onegin's portrait by Pushkin
Pushkin’s sketch of his title character

Welcome to the first part of our reading of Eugene Onegin! Please add your blog post link(s) in a comment (directly below the title of this post).  Also, if you would rather leave a comment than write a full post, that works great, too!  Chapters 1 & 2 discussion is “current” for the next week or so – please see the schedule for an update on this – but of course you can join in at anytime.

I came up with a couple of optional questions, while trying to leave it as open-ended as possible.  The book is full of ambiguity, making it ideal for diverse opinions.

Chapters 1 & 2 Questions

– First impressions of Eugene?

– What do you make of the narrator’s commentary?

– Thoughts on the characters sketched out in Chapter 2?

Ongoing Questions

– Reactions and/or predictions?

– Any quotes or passages that stand out?


~ One of Mrs. Larina’s favorite authors is Samuel Richardson, an 18th century English writer who was popular well into the 19th century.  He is best known for Pamela (1740), Clarissa (1748) and The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753).  (Wikipedia)

~ There are numerous references in Eugene Onegin to French language and culture.  The Russian upper class was, in fact, as much French-speaking as they were Russian-speaking (this article, by the Gale Encyclopedia of Russian History, goes into the details as to why).  Additionally, at the time of Eugene Onegin‘s publication, the Slavophilism movement was just beginning (Wikipedia), so you still see a lot of English/French influences throughout the book.

Feel free to comment with any additional notes that you find interesting!


  1. As I thought, I couldn't resist reading the entire thing in one sitting. I will do my best not to post spoilers though. If my memory serves me right, the first chapter introduces us to Eugene and the circumstances that lead him to inherit his uncle's country house (I'm sorry if the terms I am using are different from what you are reading, because I have read in the original Russian and must rely on my own translation skills). The opening is tinted with some dark humour as we see Onegin wishing for his uncle to pass away already, because it is too much of a chore to keep company to a sickly person. That speaks volumes of Onegin's character as someone who is selfish and yet unshaken by a concept of death. I wonder if Pushkin was greatly inspired by Byron when he created his character. Onegin's nihilism and withdrawal from society paint a very Byronic protagonist.In the second chapter we get to know Lensky who is a complete opposite – romantic poet, full of hope and love. It's funny that Pushkin calls them friends \”out of nothing else to do\”. The two however make up a very stereotypical set of literary friends/rivals that can be seen in many other works of fiction: the moody bad boy and the boy next door (am I crazy?).And to comment on your notes, yes Russian nobility of 18-19th century mostly spoke French and some didn't even know Russian. It was a matter of fashion and sign of proper education, I guess. It's funny that many rich people spoke fluent French, English, Italian, German, but spoke very little Russian. When they did have to say something in their native tongue, they often used awkward grammar and stiff sentences on purpose to sound like they have a hard time conversing. It's shown brilliantly in War & Peace.


  2. I believe there's a line in the book about Onegin having \”Byron's picture on the wall,\” which would explain a lot. 🙂 Agreed about the characterization of Onegin and Lensky's friendship. Some similarities to Darcy and Bingley, maybe?


  3. I can definitely see the similarity to the two characters of Austen. I actually compared Onegin to Darcy briefly in my post too so I'm happy I'm not alone in my opinion. Can't wait to see what people think of the rest of the poem.


  4. I'm a late starter, but happy to be here in good company, here is a link to my first post at Word by Word.It seems to be building character at the outset, the story not yet clear, but the players being mapped out. Loving the 'I do not take myself too seriously' commentary. Seems almost contemporary.


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