“I am yet young and life is strong in me, Yet what awaits me?
Who is Eugene Onegin?
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A Byronic hero
Without doubt, Lord Byron had a big influence on Pushkin’s writing style. We find this influence all throughout his life.
The same themes we find in Byron’s writings, especially his semi-autobiographical epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, appear in Pushkin’s from his earlier period, like in The Gypsies (1824) for example, to his third and last period.
We find the same proud, moody, and cynical man.
“With defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection” (Lord Macaulay).
Evgeny, Ruslan, Roslavlev, Pyotr Grinyov, Dubrovsky… they all are Byronic heroes.
* * *
“But God! How did passions play
With his obedient soul” (The Gypsies, l.140–141)
* * *
‘A great man’
Pushkin: Nah …
‘A man not great’
Pushkin: yes that’s what I need. yes, definitely Him.
His name will be Evgeny.
* * *
A Superfluous man.
«L’homme de trop»
The superfluous man was first introduced in “Eugene Onegin“; and was later borrowed by many other writers.
We find him in The Diary of a Superfluous Man by Turgenev, A Hero of Our Time by Lermontov, Who Is to Blame? by Alexander Herzen, Oblomov by Goncharov, and Sanin by Mikhail Artsybashev.
Often described as a man usually born into wealth and privilege, in most cases smart and talented , and who does not fit in the society and its norms. Cynical, unmindful, indifferent, unempathetic, as well as deeply bored, the typical superfluous man shows a tendency for gambling, drinking, romantic intrigues and duels. His life consists of balls, concerts, parties, and nothing more.
Being a self-centered person without any ambition or integrity, he will attempt to manipulate, to control, degrade or pacify individuals for one purpose; gain more comfort, more security…
“The superfluous man is a homeless man … a person who has lost a point, a place, a presence in life ” David Patterson.
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Okay, you must say that Pushkin is out of date and old fashioned. But if really so, then why is our world full of superfluous people ?
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Dandy men of St. Petersburg
“One who studies ostentatiously to dress fashionably and elegantly; a fop, an exquisite.” (Oxford English Dictionary).
Lost and homeless, he searches desperately for a new home. For this purpose, he places particular importance upon his physical appearance, his clothes, his manners, his language…
He desperately exaggerates in fashion to the point of being ridiculous.
Like Onegin in St. Petersburg, he attends the most prominent balls and interacts with high statued people of the society.
He wants to belong…
Baudelaire, contrary to other writers, considered dandyism a form of Romanticism. “These beings have no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking”.
Again, a typical individual who is obsessed with fashion, with appearance. Someone who only cares about his image.
Why is this still so relevant today?
* * *
Despite all his effort to belong.
He is doomed to loneliness
Onegin finds himself in the end with nothing.
Using Gogol’s favorite world.
With “NOL” (нуль)
He lost his love, killed his only friend, was left in his loneliness with no satisfaction in his life. He falls into darkness, a prey to his own pride and selfishness.
* * *
“The sun of our poetry is down! “ (Krayevsky)
Pushkin wrote his own destiny. Like Eugene, he too was killed in a duel.
“The clock of doom had struck as fated;
the poet, without a sound,
let fall his pistol on the ground.” (Eugene Onegin Ch. 6, st. 30.)
* * *
En Homage to his legacy, I close this chapter with one of his most depressive verses:
“Sad that our finest aspiration
Our freshest dreams and meditations,
In swift succession should decay,
Like Autumn leaves that rot away.”
(Eugene Onegin Ch. 8, st. 11.)
You can also read my previous article about Pushkin’s life and writing, and let me know through your comments what other writers and books you would like me to write about.