1820s Russia: St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the countryside
Narrator and Point of View
Pushkin himself narrates the story, sometimes as author who imagines his characters and sometimes as a character who befriends those characters.
Tone and Mood
The novel, through its unique verse structure, moves through a variety of emotional tones, from sweeping depictions of Russian life to detailed attention to individual analysis, lighthearted joking between friends to tragic conflict.
Protagonist and Antagonist
Eugene Onegin and Tatyana Larin are the protagonists of the novel. Onegin is an antihero.
Onegin, consumed with the ideal of the Byronic hero, is unable to return the true affections of Tatyana and cold-heartedly kills his friend Lensky in a duel.
In Chapter 6, Onegin kills Lensky in a duel and then flees the countryside. In Chapter 8 he is driven to desperation by Tatyana's indifference towards him, prompting him to write love letters to her and finally confront her in the climactic ending scene, in which she rejects him.
The early parallels which Pushkin draws between Onegin and Lord Byron's prototypical Byronic hero, Childe Harold, foreshadow the violent action that Onegin will undertake and Tatyana's discovery, while looking through Onegin's study, that he is nothing more than a parody of a person. Most clearly, Onegin kills Lensky in Tatyana's dream.
When speaking as himself, Pushkin sometimes understates his own poetic ability.
The entire novel is full of allusions to well-known books and other cultural works important to Pushkin's time. In particular, Onegin, Lensky, and Tatyana are each characterized by a particular literary tradition: English, German, and French, respectively.
Pushkin displays his poetic genius in his descriptions of nearly the whole scope of early nineteenth-century Russian life, from the aristocratic balls in St. Petersburg to the folk traditions of the provinces. He pays particular attention to the natural beauty which he and Tatyana so love.
Tatyana (and the reader) attempt to understand Onegin's personality and wonder whether he has a true personality (and is therefore redeemable) or is only a cliche of a Byronic hero.
The disinterestedness of Onegin is set off against the burning passion of Lensky and the gentle but honest love of Tatyana. Also, the Onegin-Tatyana and Lensky-Olga relationships act as foils for each other.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
Onegin is closely associated with the books he reads, as Tatyana discovers when looking through his study. She also finds traces of his presence in such objects as the pool balls he leaves on the table and a bust of Napoleon. Tatyana, through her mysteriousness and predilection for walking outside at night, keeps a close association to the moon through the entire novel.
When speaking as an author, usually at the end of each chapter, Pushkin often refers to the novel as a kind of living creation he has made, beckoning it to fly about and win him fame.
Eugene Onegin Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Eugene Onegin is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.