The Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why is it significant that Hermann sees the queen of spades wink at him at the end of the story?

    Having been told by the Countess that he should place his third bet on the ace, Hermann is horrified to realize that he mistakenly placed his stack of bank notes on the queen of spades. He loses everything, and in the moment believes he sees the queen of spades wink at him from the game board. The surreal image echoes how the dead Countess winked at him from her open casket; Hermann then sees how much the queen of spades resembles the Countess. The repeated image is no coincidence: though Pushkin does not state the connection outright, one can infer that the winking queen of spades is hinting to Hermann that the Countess's spirit purposefully manipulated reality in order to cause him to set his bet on the wrong card. In this way, she gets revenge after Hermann frightened her to death.

  2. 2

    What role does storytelling play in "The Queen of Spades"?

    Storytelling is a major theme in "The Queen of Spades." In the first section of the narrative, Tomsky digresses to tell a story about his grandmother, the Countess. The story is so powerful in what it promises that Hermann becomes obsessed with discovering the Countess's secret; he sets off on his own story, one of mystic possibilities and imminent riches. Liza, meanwhile, is living her own type of story, as she views her flirtation with Hermann as though it is a story out of a romance novel. Pushkin contrasts these competing modes of storytelling to illustrate the power that narratives have over people's actions and emotions. By collecting these different types of story in one place, Pushkin shows how it is necessary to create a mosaic of smaller impressions to get the most objective and expansive take on reality.

  3. 3

    Explain how Pushkin uses the technique of dramatic irony in "The Queen of Spades."

    Pushkin uses dramatic irony—which gives the reader more knowledge than a character or characters—as a tool to create plot-propelling tension in "The Queen of Spades." Pushkin introduces the reader to Hermann's calculating nature and then to Liza's romantic yearnings so that the reader knows more than Liza about Hermann's ulterior motive for flirting with her. Once the reader knows that Hermann is the young Engineers officer pursuing Liza, the reader worries about how he will exploit Liza's obliviousness. By eliciting concern for a Liza, Pushkin compels the reader to read ahead to find out what will happen once her romantic expectations are undercut by the sad and stark reality of Hermann's greed.