Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5


The chapter begins with winter descending upon the countryside. Following the Yuletide tradition, the Larin girls and their maids play several divination games, many of which predict future husbands. Tatyana in particular treats the divinations very seriously, to the point that she makes plans for an all-night spirit conjuring. However, she becomes frightened of the idea and instead goes to sleep.

That night, Tatyana has a fantastical nightmare set in a snowy landscape. A bear appears, chases her, and then, once she can run away no more, carries her to a house full of festive sounds. Peeking through the crack of a door into a room, Tatyana sees a variety of monsters holding a party and, in their midst, Onegin, who domineers over the festivities.

When she accidentally gives away her presence, the monsters cry "She's mine! She's mine!" but Onegin chases them away by shouting, "She's mine!" Alone with Tatyana, who is nearly lifeless from terror, Onegin lays her on a bed. When Lensky and Olga intrude on them, Onegin gets into a fight with Lensky which ends with Lensky stabbed. Upon waking from the dream, Tatyana seeks understanding by reading a dream interpretation book but gains little from it.

Several days later, Tatyana's name-day party takes place, drawing a lively crowd of guests. Tatyana herself, still in the throes of her confused passion for Onegin, barely enjoys the party. Displeased to find himself in a rural parody of the urban world of merrymaking he already disdains, instead of the small family gathering Lensky promised, Onegin is further incensed by Tatyana's miserableness and decides to revenge himself on Lensky for tricking him into to coming. When the dances begin, Onegin steals Olga from Lensky and, making use of his charm, makes her fall for him. Seeing this, Lensky rushes out of the party in a rage with a duel on his mind.


The chapter begins with the arrival of winter, as seen by Tatyana through her window, and scenes of peasants in sleighs and kibitikas (a kind of closed carriage) driving around merrily through the snow. As he so often does, Pushkin turns from this description to face the reader, that is the contemporary Russian reader, and acknowledges their taste for topics of higher nature. Though Pushkin does have a friend poet to whom he directs the readers for additional verses on the countryside in wintertime, the general consensus still prefers stories about high (Europeanized) society over rustic Russian peasant life.

However, "Tatyana (with a Russian duty /That held her heart, she knew not why) / Profoundly loved, in its cold beauty, /The Russian winter passing by" (V.4). Here, for more intense effect, Pushkin has repeated the word "Russian," and though he does not say it explicitly, the position of this stanza right after the one mentioned above makes the contrast between Russia and Europe clear. Following the "old tradition," which happens to accord very well with her own dreamy and superstitious nature, exacerbated by her love, Tatyana tries various divination practices during Yuletide (V.4). Not unexpectedly, two of these practices involve the moon, Tatyana's symbol.

When Tatyana makes plans for a midnight conjuring of spirits, Pushkin himself expresses his concern, comparing her as Onegin once did and the epigraph does to Svetlana, Zhukovsky's heroine. Indeed, though she abandons the idea out of fear and goes to sleep, her nightmare that follows brings the quotation from Zhukovsky to mind: "Oh, never know these frightful dreams, /My dear Svetlana!"

Just as Tatyana has little success in interpreting her dream using a book a dream interpretation after she has woken up, so it is difficult or even unproductive for us readers to attempt to understand every monster and strange occurrence. However, along with the general foreboding atmosphere of the dream, certain points are very clear, most of all Onegin's fight with and murder of Lensky, which was done for Tatyana's sake. Also, Tatyana's peering curiously into a room in Onegin's house and seeing him with monsters foreshadows her later investigations in his room and discovery of the demons within his mind.

As it happens, Tatyana's name-day party, which falls on January 25 in the Gregorian calendar (January 12 in the old Julian calendar the Russians used until 1918), follows right after this night of torment for Tatyana, thus setting up a volatile situation. The bustling of the many guests, several of whom Pushkin describes mostly to show how they annoy the already disturbed Tatyana, naturally repels the world-weary Onegin. But, importantly, it is not until he notices the pained look on Tatyana's face that he stops concealing his displeasure and becomes angry. Of course, Lensky only holds responsibility for deceiving Onegin into coming to the party but not for Tatyana's unhappiness. Onegin's reaction shows that, affected by his unusual love for Tatyana, he has allowed his emotions to get the better of his vaunted rationality, thereby spurring him to take revenge for a clearly excusable misstep on Lensky's part.

Despite his self-injunctions to not harm Lensky, Onegin feels once again the old thrill of a social battle; he is "Exulting in anticipation" and begins to flex the muscles of his crafty mind by drawing caricatures of other guests (V.31). Once the dances begin, Onegin monopolizes Olga, much to Lensky's dismay. With a "common madrigal" and a squeeze of the hand, skills devoid of true feeling in which Onegin is undoubted well-versed, Olga blushes, driving Lensky into even greater rage. Upon hearing that Olga has promised Onegin the next dance too, Lensky begins to think that his love has become as false and crafty as the ladies of high society whom he and Pushkin so despise.