Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 7 & 8

Here we are at the final part of the read-along!  It feels like it’s gone so fast!  Truth be told, I still have to read chapters 5 & 6, so if you’re not up to chapter 7 yet, rest assured you’re not alone. 

The last week has been hectic for me, and I know the next week will also be.  I had some laptop issues and lost quite a few files, hence my unpreparedness for this concluding part.  Nevertheless, keep submitting your links – for any of the chapters – and I will certainly be reading them soon and writing a second post. 

Lastly, thanks to you all for your participation!!  It’s been fascinating to read your different insights, and really given us all new ways to perceive the characters, their motives, and the story.  Honestly, I could go on for hours dissecting the character of Onegin alone.  Perhaps some future year we could have this read-along again.  🙂

Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 5 & 6

{Summary of previous part + new questions below the cut.}

In chapter 4, Tatyana’s impulsive – and, for the era, improper – love letter was rejected by a polite but upfront Onegin.  While Lensky and Olga are living out the fairytale romance leading up to a wedding, Onegin refuses to take part in fulfilling the neighborhood’s gossip about him and Tatyana.  His attitude towards her, in his own words, is that of a friendly acquaintance, scarcely more than brotherly love.  He warns her to be more careful with her feelings, as other people will not treat her with understanding as he has.  Heartbroken, Tatyana must go on as if nothing happened, while still having to face the opinions of her family and inquisitive neighbors.

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)?

– 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?

Ongoing Questions

– Reactions and/or predictions?

– Any quotes or passages that stand out?

Eugene Onegin, first thoughts

(c) Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

First off – I’m feeling quite sheepish and sorry for my absence during this read-along!  This weekend I am, at last, finally writing my first post and catching up on all of your interesting insights!

Second apology: for my not-so subtle promotion of the 2013 Met Opera production, now on DVD.  I promise I’m not affiliated with the Met in any way – this is just my favorite adaptation of the story!  If you like opera at all, it’s worth checking out.

Back to the topic at hand.  This is my fourth year reading Onegin.  How it could possibly be the fourth, I don’t know; it’s just a tradition I started freshman year of college.  Each translation reads like a new book, and this time it’s Charles Johnston.

So far, I have mixed feelings about Johnston’s.  It might be the easiest to read yet, whether because of accuracies or liberties, I don’t know, though I suspect the latter.  It certainly rhymes better than the Mitchell translation –  there’s something to be said for that.  On the other hand, I feel like the word choices are too – cynical?  Or simply more opinionated, less subtle?  Both a strength and a weakness. I’ll be interested to see how this manifests itself later on.

Chapters 1 & 2 Questions

– First impressions of Eugene?

After I read other participants’ ideas on these early chapters, a thought came to mind that was so obvious but somehow new to me.  Eugene lives on first impressions (no pun intended).  First dances, first loves, new places, new people.  He loves the countryside, at first.  He likes Tatyana, at first.  But he becomes disappointed by everything new he pursues, and I think that is what repels him from Tatyana as well.  He doesn’t want to live old mistakes over again.

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

It really used to bug me, but I like it now.  Pushkin is not too lofty or lowly, and he doesn’t try to pull or dare you into the story.  I picture him sitting in a living room or study, talking and telling the story informally to half-critical friends.  No pressure, just an invitation to listen.

– Thoughts on the characters sketched out in Chapter 2?

Eugene is delightfully unsociable; I love the bit in stanza 5 where he runs away every time someone comes to visit.  (I’m also guessing he’s kinder to his serfs out of pure laziness, not particular benevolence.)

Lensky’s character is already firmly established.  He gets quite – unduly? – attached to people, even the late Mr. Larin, whose memorial he visits with genuine sadness.

Olga is not given much description.  Tatyana’s childhood is actually described, which is significant in such a space-efficient novel.  I like the part “a chilled reaction / to horror stories told at night / in winter was her heart’s delight”.  It sounds ironic that a sensitive girl would like spooky stories, yet I was just the same way.  Also, it’s such a random but telling piece of her personality.

Chapters 3 & 4 Questions

– Impressions of Tatyana and Olga?

Olga is a bit of a mystery – even now we don’t get to really know her.  However, it is implied she is a bit indifferent to Lensky’s romantic verses.  Considering they were childhood friends, maybe she is not actually shallow, but just has different feelings towards him than what he has for her.

I don’t quite like Tatyana in this translation.  She comes across as particularly emotional and impressionable.  Again, this must be due to the translation, as previously I didn’t have that response.

– What do you make of Onegin’s reaction to Tatyana?

Very much in character.  Half of it is arrogance, and the “I’m older and wiser than you!” sort of thing.  The other half is the other half of Onegin, struck by his conscience and genuinely moved to an act of concern, maybe even kindness.

What I love also about this scene is that Tatyana saw it coming.  The book is full of Romanticism, but it’s these moments of realism that make it so true to life.

– How does the story, thus far, compare or contrast with another classic romantic novel (of your choice)? 

I think Eugene Onegin was in many ways ahead of its time.  Invariably, I must compare it to Jane Eyre, since it focuses as much on the heroine’s development as on the romantic plot.  But Eugene Onegin also deals with the effect of society on people’s actions, which makes it a little more universal.  Sort of the best of both Austen and Bronte, I would say.  🙂

Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 3 & 4

(c) Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

In part 1 of our read-along, we met a rather vain but world-weary Eugene on his way to his inherited country estate.  By chance, he befriended his neighbor Vladimir Lenksy, a young, Romantic (and romantic) poet.  We also get to meet Olga Larina, Lensky’s beloved, and her sister Tatyana, as opposite in personalities as Onegin and Lensky.  Chapter 2 concluded with a pithy description of the sisters’ mother and father.  There’s much to suggest that every “narrator’s aside” in this story holds some significance, so we’ll see if/when/how these themes tie into the story.

You can join this read-along at anytime!  Please add your blog post link(s) in a comment (directly below the title of this post).  Comments in lieu of a post are also welcome.  All discussion questions are optional.

I have a little catching up to do, but I hope to post my own thoughts over the next week.  🙂  It’s been great reading all of your posts so far!

Chapters 3 & 4 Questions

– Impressions of Tatyana and Olga?

– What do you make of Onegin’s reaction to Tatyana?

– How does the story, thus far, compare or contrast with another classic romantic novel (of your choice)? 

Ongoing Questions

– Reactions and/or predictions?

– Any quotes or passages that stand out?

Notes:

~ St. Tatiana is commemorated on January 25 (or 12, on the Julian calendar), so that would be Tatyana’s name day.

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

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?

Notes:

~ 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!