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Insight into the life of Pushkin


Published on December 14th, 2019 at 01:16 am

By Daniel Yin

and folklore from the serfs on the estate which became the inspiration for his poems. After the Decembrist revolution, Pushkin was allowed to return from exile. Back in Moscow, Pushkin’s poems once again took on political issues as he tried to push for reforms, but was limited from censorship from the Tsar. Feeling politically isolated, Pushkin took inspiration from writers such

as Shakespeare and Byron, and wrote many tragedies. In 1837, Pushkin died after dueling a man who his wife was supposedly having an affair with.

In Alexander Pushkin’s “Winter Evening,” he illustrates himself in an old cottage with an unresponsive old woman. During the time of the poem, Pushkin was living in exile in his mother’s estate with few people for companionship. Among them was Arina Rodionovna, his nanny from childhood who took on a motherly figure in his life and likely represents the old woman in the poem. In “Thoughts,” Pushkin describes objects and people from everyday life and takes on a somber tone because he realizes time affects them all. In the poems “Winter Evening” and “Thoughts,” Pushkin ponders the passage of time as he struggles to come to terms with the inevitable end of everything and everyone around him.

In the poem “Winter Evening,” Pushkin conveys the omnipotence of time and the changes it brings. He fears the loss of his nanny Arina, who is portrayed as the old woman in the poem, and laments the loss of his youth. Pushkin desires time to be with Arina, who he was very close to because she became a mother figure to him. Though at this time Arina is still alive, it reveals Pushkin’s loneliness in exile “because of family problems. [while] His wife lived a social life that demanded money beyond his means” (Davis). As illuminated by Marianna Davis, Pushkin’s depressing tone can be attributed to where he was in life. In addition, it is clear that Pushkin turned to Arina for support since he appears to have a weak relationship with his own parents and wife. This poem underscores the fact that Pushkin cares very much about Arina and the thought of her leaving him through death is expressed figuratively through the winter storm. Like time, a snowstorm is something that cannot be controlled. Pushkin uses similes to describe the winter storm as “it howls like a wolf” and “crying, like a lost child” because a wolf howling, and crying child, are both things associated with sadness. Furthermore, Pushkin describes the house he lives in with Arina as a “wretched little cottage.” He deliberately chooses the word “cottage” to imply that the house is old and outdated. Very much at odds with the estate he was living in during his exile, Pushkin likely felt like his home was a cottage in a metaphorical sense in that it has aged like he has and needs to be destroyed and rebuilt. Addressing the old woman, Pushkin asks whether she is sleeping “under the spinning wheel’s humming.” Oftentimes, a spinning wheel represents time as unstopping revolutions, conveying a sense of helplessness as loved ones pass away from time. At the end of the poem, Pushkin repeats lines 1-4 and 17-20 to be the last stanza. This creates a juxtaposition between the winter storm outside and everything inside the “wretched little cottage.” This is a comparison between time, which is represented by the storm, and “wasted youth” which is represented by the cottage and old woman inside both worn by time. Throughout the “Winter Evening,” Pushkin uses specific word choice, comparisons, symbolism, and repetition to convey his despair that time is passing and fear of losing his nanny Arina who is growing older and close to passing away.

In the poem “Thoughts,” Pushkin considers the passage of time and how humans are severely limited by it. Using a free verse, Pushkin narrates a series of his own thoughts on life and death and how time is an unpredictable force that drives death. At the beginning of the poem, Pushkin reminisces his childhood as he walks down a street describing entering a “church” and sitting “among the wild young generation.” Pushkin rues his current life as an adult and wishes to go back to his simpler life as a child where all he had to worry about was being taken to church by his parents and sitting with his friends as children whom he describes as “the wild young generation.” In the second quatrain, Pushkin takes on a darker tone expressing his sadness that his life is shorter and that everyone eventually goes “under the eternal vault,” a metaphor for death. Not only that but Pushkin tells the audience that at this moment “someone’s hour is already at hand,” because humans are constantly dying around the world. This bitterness is explained in the next quatrain where Pushkin’s tone becomes envious. Describing nature, Pushkin exaggerates the life expectancy of a tree saying a “solitary oak” that was alive when his grandfathers were will likely outlive him. Pushkin uses this hyperbole to emphasize the fact that nature, represented by the “solitary oak,” is a constant and therefore able to contend with time, unlike humans. To further, Pushkin depicts a hypothetical that if he saw a baby, he would envy it because he will “fade while” the baby’s “flower blooms.” Pushkin envies the baby because it is young and if he could he would “yield [his] place to [the baby].” Essentially, Pushkin wants a longer life and wants to switch places with the baby to gain more years to his life. Ironically, he compares the life of a human to a flower when in the previous quatrain he praises a tree for its long life, contrasting the two depictions of nature. In the next quatrain Pushkin’s tone suddenly shifts to uncertainty. He describes himself as “trying to guess...the year which brings [his] death,” revealing death as the ultimate cause for Pushkin’s bitterness towards time. Despite his fear, Pushkin appears to have a certain curiosity with death. He wonders where “fate will send death to [him]” and how he will die. In the following quatrain, the tone shifts and Pushkin begins to resolve the fear of death he expresses earlier in the poem. Pushkin states he would “prefer to rest...close to [his] beloved countryside.” By beginning to giving his burial ground thought, it shows that he is beginning to accept that he will eventually die. In the final quatrain, Pushkin reconciles his fear of death, envy of nature and envy of young life. Changing his view on young people, he says that “young life forever will be playing.” Essentially, Pushkin believes young life can be found anywhere and is not limited to what people physically see as young, but rather being young has many layers to it. He ends on a light note by praising nature as “eternally be shining in beauty, showing his admiration of nature despite his earlier envy and misgivings. In the poem “Thoughts,” Pushkin utilizes metaphors and changes in tone in order to address his fear of changes time brings, especially death.

Pushkin, author of “Winter Evening” and “Thoughts” effectively uses symbolism, strong diction, repetition, metaphors, tone shifts, and comparisons in order to communicate his bitterness towards time and his innate desire to have more time in life. Throughout his life, Pushkin suffered many hardships which influenced his works. His life closely tied to serfs, his nanny Arina was a freed serf, led to Pushkin developing progressive views on the lower class. Unlike many of his peers, Pushkin believed the people should have power over the government, not the other way around. As a result, Pushkin was always advocating change through his poems and novels. However, no major ever occured in his lifetime, the closest being the failed Decembrist Uprising, which may have been a cause of Pushkin’s restlessness. This restlessness may be where his desire for more time stemmed from and from there a fear of death before accomplishing the things he wanted. One of the most impactful relationships in his life was with Arina, his nanny who was a mother figure in his life. This relationship influenced his work and was the inspiration of “Winter Evening” where Pushkin expresses his fear that time will take Arina away from him. In “Thoughts” Pushking grapples with the fear of time running out and struggles to accept that he may not be able to accomplish everything he wants to accomplish in life. In short, Pushkin uses his experiences in life and manipulates his writing in order to illustrate compelling poems that convey his emotions, insecurities, and views to others.

Works Cited

Davis, Marianna W. “DEMOCRATIC CHORDS IN THE POETRY OF ALEXANDER S. PUSHKIN, BLACK RUSSIAN WRITER.” CLA Journal, vol. 21, no. 2, 1977, pp. 212–217. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44329346.

Greene, Raquel. “OTHELLO MEETS DON JUAN: SHAKESPEARE, PUSHKIN, AND ‘THE STONE GUEST.’” CLA Journal, vol. 51, no. 3, 2008, pp. 265–283. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44325428.

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