Fathers and Sons
A Detailed Study of Two Key Passages in “Fathers and Sons”
Much of the tension in Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons arises from the conflict between the two main characters, Bazarov and Arkady. Bazarov is a nihilist and the catalyst for much of the action of the novel. He does not share the romantic views held by Pavel and Nikolai Petrovitch, Arkady’s uncle and father, and this position alienates him greatly from the other main characters. Arkady, Bazarov’s best friend, admires Bazarov’s courage at the start of the novel, and he follows Bazarov closely, thinking he believes in nihilism. However, upon his arrival at his father’s estate, he begins to see that he is not of the same mold as Bazarov. The two key passages chosen for exploration in this essay reveal this changing attitude of Arkady and also the progression of Bazarov into a romantic character. The first key passage (pg. 33-34; quoted below) indicates Arkady’s initial movement towards romanticism. Turgenev describes Arkady’s developing fascination with nature and romanticism through his prose and also presents Bazarov’s bold statements concerning nihilism through the dialogue, generating early tension between the two opposing ideological views. The second key passage, near the end of the novel (pg. 150-151; quoted below), describes Bazarov’s farewell to Arkady as he leaves Madame Odintsov’s estate. Turgenev again presents the ideological tension between the two friends, although the characters’ attitudes towards each other have progressed greatly from the first passage. By the second key passage, Arkady has fallen in love with Madame Odintsov’s sister, Katya, and has fully embraced romanticism, while Bazarov, after being spurred by Madame Odintsov, uses nihilism as a shield for the wounds created by his unrequited love for Madame Odintsov. Turgenev resolves the tension between the two friends in the passage through a display of emotion, the first and last of its kind in the novel between Arkady and Bazarov. While both characters hold fast in their ideological beliefs, Turgenev suggests in the second key passage that Arkady and Bazarov part as friends and that Bazarov’s hidden romantic tendencies reveal a prevailing of romanticism over nihilism.At the start, the first key passage serves the purpose of strengthening Bazarov’s beliefs in nihilism. The passage takes place after Bazarov’s arrival to Mariyno, Nikolai Petrovitch’s estate in the Russian countryside. Bazarov’s nihilistic views have already been made apparent to Arkady’s relatives, but Arkady stayed true to his friend despite the clear opposition between Bazarov and the Petrovitch family. As Bazarov and Arkady walk through the gardens of Mariyno, Turgenev makes Bazarov’s views apparent in his dialogue. Bazarov explains that nature is “foolery in the sense you [Arkady] understand it. Nature’s not a temple, but a workshop, and man’s the workman in it” (line 19-20). Bazarov suggests with the word “temple” that nature should not be worshipped as an authority, but merely used for utilitarian purposes. He tells Arkady that “what does matter is that two and two make four, and all the rest is foolery” (line 14-15), and this “foolery” clearly includes Nikolai’s playing of the violoncello. Upon hearing the music, Bazarov bursts into laughter and exclaims, “Upon my word, a man of forty-four, a paterfamilias in this out-of-the-way district, playing on the violoncello!” (line 33-34). This comment not only boldly ridicules romanticism but also offends Arkady personally and gives him cause to come to the defense of his family, leading to his shift to romanticism. The first key passage is especially significant in that it indicates Arkady’s changing attitudes towards Bazarov and nihilism. Turgenev’s prose makes this shift apparent. While Bazarov disdains those who worship nature, Arkady looks “pensively at the bright-coloured fields in the distance, in the beautiful soft light of the sun” (line 16-17). The visual imagery in Arkady’s view of nature exhibits his idea of beauty in nature and also his newfound interest in romanticism, which Turgenev presents as the opposing ideological view in the first passage. Through further description, Turgenev suggests that he shares Arkady’s views, and his prose foreshadows the eventual triumph of romanticism — for example, Turgenev describes the music, Schubert’s “Expectation,” as flowing “with honey sweetness through the air” (line 24). Arkady also begins to defend his family and countrymen from Bazarov’s attacks. When Bazarov insults the Russian people, Arkady remarks, “I begin to agree with my uncle… you certainly have a poor opinion of Russians” (34). When Bazarov belittles Arkady’s family upon hearing the music of the violoncello, Arkady, “much as he revered his master… did not even smile” (line 35-36), revealing a significant shift from the start of the novel. While Bazarov is still Arkady’s “master,” Turgenev, in the first key passage, presents the beginning of Arkady’s movement toward romanticism and starts to create tension between the main characters. The second key passage occurs directly after Arkady’s marriage proposal to Katya, to which she agrees. Bazarov has had much time to contemplate his situation with Madame Odintsov and the differences between Arkady and him while at Nikolshoe, Odintsov’s estate. Arkady’s engagement makes Bazarov realize the extent of the ideological gap between the two friends, although he is secretly angry that Arkady is able to express himself to Katya while he still has difficulties in showing any love towards Odintsov. Thus, in a headstrong and bitter manner, he says farewell to Arkady in the second key passage. Turgenev once again makes Bazarov’s nihilistic assertions known through his dialogue, although in this passage, Bazarov instead compares himself to Arkady. Bazarov tells his friend that he is “not made for our bitter, rough, lonely existence,” and he calls Arkady “a sugary, liberal snob” (150-151). Bazarov also emphasizes Arkady’s fragility, telling him, “You won’t fight… Our dust would get into your eyes, our mud would bespatter you” (150). He exclaims that his goal is “to smash other people,” a clearly nihilistic view, and he resents Arkady’s “refined indignation” (150) as another point of weakness. When Arkady asks if he has anything else to say, Bazarov cannot reply in fear of expressing “sentimentalism” (151). However, he does support Arkady’s way of life in the sense that he does not believe Arkady could do better. Immediately before he leaves, Bazarov compares Arkady to a jackdaw — “a respectable family bird” — and tells Arkady to “follow that example,” for Bazarov wants nothing to do with a respectable life. His nihilism is still alive and persistent at the final parting of the two friends, although he understands Arkady’s point of view, and this awareness relieves some tension between the two friends.From Arkady’s point of view, the second key passage signifies a complete removal of any previous nihilistic views and an embracing of romanticism. First of all, Arkady’s situation at this point is drastically different from Bazarov’s; Arkady is marrying his lover and starting a family, while Bazarov is leaving his lover behind. While this discrepancy is a point of contention for Bazarov, it lightens Arkady’s attitude towards Bazarov because Arkady no longer needs to believe in nihilism for companionship. Turgenev describes Bazarov as Arkady’s “former leader,” suggesting that, by letting Bazarov leave and staying with Katya, he can express his romantic views with no need for censorship. Even still, Bazarov’s parting comments hurt Arkady, but he too understands that the two have their fundamental differences. The breakthrough moment of emotion comes when Arkady embraces Bazarov and “the tears fairly [gush] from his eyes” (151). Throughout the novel, Bazarov described crying as a disdainful act, one that showed unnecessary emotion. In this final passage between the two friends, however, Arkady fully exposes through his tears not only his romanticism but also his love for Bazarov, and this expression of emotion resolves the final tension between the two conflicting ideologies.Through these two key passages, Turgenev develops a relationship between two main characters that is fundamentally based on discrepancies. From the start of the novel, Bazarov is shown to be a nihilistic character who does not surrender to any authority, and Arkady professes himself to be of the same mind. However, Arkady’s return to his home revives his romantic instinct and sets him apart from Bazarov, as introduced in the first passage. During the conversation in the garden at Mariyno, Turgenev introduces Arkady’s romantic views and creates tension between the two friends. As the novel continues, Arkady’s ties to nature and his family become too strong to be destroyed by Bazarov, and his relationship with Katya only cements those views. Bazarov, on the other hand, also shifts towards romanticism in the novel when he meets Madame Odintsov, although he is disgusted with his own emotions. When Arkady declares his love for Katya, Bazarov finally realizes that he and Arkady are fundamentally different and that Arkady has changed. Bazarov has not lost his nihilism, and Arkady has not abandoned his romanticism; but in the second key passage, through mutual understanding, the tension relaxes as the two are able to say farewell peacefully. Turgenev does not force one ideological position to the top but instead recognizes that Bazarov and Arkady are not similar people and thus cannot follow the same path. In Bazarov’s final instructions to Arkady, to follow the example of the jackdaws, Bazarov displays tolerance for Arkady’s beliefs, the strongest emotion he allows himself to show, and he even encourages him to follow Katya’s lead. The tension resolves even further as Arkady, through the tears of his embrace, openly displays his love for Bazarov for the first time, and, in Bazarov’s departure, the two are brothers once again. Works CitedTurgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1998.First Key Passage (pg. 33-34):The friends walked a few paces in silence. “I have looked at all your father’s establishment,” Bazarov began again. “The cattle are inferior, the horses are broken down; the buildings aren’t up to much, and the workmen look confirmed loafers; while the superintendent is either a fool, or a knave, I haven’t quite found out which yet.”“You are rather hard on everything to-day, Yevgeny Vassilyevitch.”“And the dear good peasants are taking your father in to a dead certainty. You know the Russian proverb, ‘The Russian peasant will cheat God Himself.’”“I begin to agree with my uncle,” remarked Arkady; “you certainly have a poor opinion of Russians.”“As though that mattered! The only good point in a Russian is his having the lowest possible opinion of himself. What does matter is that two and two make four, and the rest is all foolery.”“And is nature foolery?” said Arkady, looking pensively at the bright-coloured fields in the distance, in the beautiful soft light of the sun, which was not yet high up in the sky.“Nature, too, is foolery in the sense you understand it. Nature’s not a temple, but a workshop, and man’s the workman in it.”At that instant, the long drawn notes of a violoncello floated out to them from the house. Some one was playing Schubert’s Expectation with much feeling, though with an untrained hand, and the melody flowed with honey sweetness through the air.“What’s that?” cried Bazarov in amazement.“It’s my father.”“Your father plays the violoncello?”“Yes.”“And how old is your father?”“Forty-four.”Bazarov suddenly burst into a roar of laughter.“What are you laughing at?”“Upon my word, a man of forty-four, a paterfamilias in this out-of-the-way district, playing on the violoncello!”Bazarov went on laughing; but much as he revered his master, this time Arkady did not even smile.Second Key Passage (pg. 150-151):“And now, I say again, good-bye, for it’s useless to deceive ourselves — we are parting for good, and you know that yourself… you have acted sensibly; you’re not made for our bitter, rough, lonely existence. There’s no dash, no hate in you, but you’ve the daring of youth and the fire of youth. Your sort, your gentry, can never get beyond refined submission or refined indignation, and that’s no good. You won’t fight — and yet you fancy yourselves gallant chaps — but we mean to fight. Oh well! Our dust would get into your eyes, our mud would bespatter you, but yet you’re not up to our level, you’re admiring yourselves unconsciously, you like to abuse yourselves; but we’re sick of that — we want something else! We want to smash other people! You’re a capital fellow; but you’re a sugary, liberal snob for all that — ay vollatoo, as my parent is fond of saying.”“You are parting from me for ever, Yevgeny,” responded Arkady mournfully; “and have you nothing else to say to me?”Bazarov scratched the back of his head. “Yes, Arkady, yes, I have other things to say to you, but I’m not going to say them, because that’s sentimentalism — that means, mawkishness. And you get married as soon as you can; and build your nest, and get children to your heart’s content. They’ll have the wit to be born in a better time than you and me. Aha! I see the horses are ready. Time’s up! I’ve said good-bye to every one… What now? embracing, eh?”Arkady flung himself on the neck of his former leader and friend, and the tears fairly gushed from his eyes.“That’s what comes of being young!” Bazarov commented calmly. “But I rest my hopes on Katerina Sergyevna. You’ll see how quickly she’ll console you! Good-bye, brother!” he said to Arkady when he had got into the light cart, and, pointing to a pair of jackdaws sitting side by side on the stable roof, he added, “That’s for you! Follow that example.” “What does that mean?” asked Arkady.“What? Are you so weak in natural history, or have you forgotten that the jackdaw is a most respectable family bird? An example to you!… Good-bye!”The cart creaked and rolled away.
Destroyers in the Name of Progress: Bazarov in “Fathers and Sons” and Mr. Fortune in “A View of the Woods”
The destruction of tradition in the name of progress exists in Flannery O’Connor’s “A View of the Woods” and Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons through the main protagonists in each work. Bazarov is the central character of Fathers and Sons: he is a young nihilist who challenges the traditional Russian aristocracy and the older generation of Russians. Mr. Fortune, the protagonist of O’Connor’s “A View of the Woods,” is uniquely different from the characters of Fathers and Sons in that he is both a part of the older generation and also makes a stand for progress in his small town. Bazarov and Mr. Fortune create conditions for progress by destroying not only the traditions of their cultures, but also by destroying nature itself. Through this theme of change and progress, tensions are created, both internal and external. As this conflict heightens, Bazarov and Mr. Fortune are revealed as iconoclasts in their respective society by virtue of their relationships with their settings and the thematic ideologies behind their actions.Bazarov and Mr. Fortune’s relationships with their settings are important in understanding their actions and beliefs, because, for destruction to occur, an inherent tension must first exist in those relationships. In Fathers and Sons, Bazarov is introduced as a nihilist: in Arkady’s words, he is “a man who does not bow down before any authority, who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in” (17). Nihilism is in direct conflict with romanticism, a concept that is supported by Pavel Petrovitch, Arkady’s uncle, and also by most of the traditional Russian society. Romanticism is expressed in Fathers and Sons through the imagery and figurative language used to describe the various settings, and, most importantly, Nikolai’s estate: “Fields upon fields stretched all along to the very horizon, now sloping gently upwards, then dropping down again; […] And the piteous state of the weak, starved beasts in the midst of the lovely spring day, called up, like a white phantom, the endless, comfortless winter, with its storms, and frosts, and snows” (8-9). Turgenev uses figurative language in this passage to present a traditional view of Russia, a view that is quickly destroyed by Bazarov when he sees Nikolai’s estate only for its usefulness. Bazarov does not support science in an abstract sense, because he, as a nihilist, cannot support any such authority; however, he is still able to take romanticism out of Nikolai’s estate by using nature only for utilitarian purposes: “‘You study the anatomy of the eye; where does the enigmatical glance you talk about come in there? That’s all romantic, nonsensical aesthetic rot. We had much better go and look at the beetle’” (26). The beetle represents, in this case, an example of Bazarov taking a creature out of the natural world and literally killing it; in his nihilism, he destroys every previously held romantic view of Russia, even destroying life itself.In Flannery O’Connor’s “A View of the Woods,” the tension between tradition and progress also exists between the protagonist, Mr. Fortune, and the setting. Although not a nihilist, Mr. Fortune destroys his surroundings, plots of land in rural Georgia, in the name of progress: “He would never have been able to sell off any lots if it had not been for progress, which had always been his ally” (337). The main conflict of the story arises in Mr. Fortune’s plan to destroy a plot of land that his granddaughter holds dear. Like Bazarov, Mr. Fortune looks for the pragmatic uses of nature, and, in this plot of land, Mr. Fortune envisions a gas station being built. He is incapable of understanding the romantic view of nature held by his granddaughter, Mary Fortune, and the woods are, to him, “an uncomfortable mystery that he had not apprehended before” (348). Mr. Fortune believes that, because nature is not useful, it can be destroyed to create a clearing for progress. Furthermore, Mr. Fortune is a practical man in his relationship with his family; he does not “have any use for” his own daughter, who lives on his land and stands in the way of progress (336). He sees his daughter’s family, the Pittses, as “the kind that would let a cow pasture interfere with the future” (338), and so it is with his own family that the tension between tradition and progress reappears.The symbol of Mr. Fortune’s destruction is the bulldozer that digs clay out from the land. The bulldozer is described in terms of words concerning illness and monstrosity: “She [Mary Fortune] sat on the hood, looking down into the red pit, watching the big disembodied gullet gorge itself on the clay, then, with the sound of a deep sustained nausea and a slow mechanical revulsion, turn and spit it up” (335). This motif is used by O’Connor to present an unnatural creature that directly conflicts with the natural environment, much like Mr. Fortune. When Mr. Fortune dies at the end of the story, he is left alone with his tool of destruction: “He looked around desperately for someone to help him but the place was deserted except for one huge yellow monster which sat to the side, as stationary as he was, gorging itself on clay” (356). This final irony of Mr. Fortune’s death with the bulldozer reveals his alienation by his family, or traditionalists, and questions the cost of destruction in the name of progress.Bazarov and Mr. Fortune clearly differ in their views of destruction and progress. For Bazarov, progress is simply another abstract ideal for which he has no use: “‘Aristocracy, Liberalism, progress, principles,’ Bazarov was saying meanwhile; ‘if you think of it, what a lot of foreign… and useless words!’” (39). Although Bazarov does not believe in progress in the abstract, inherent in his ideas of nihilism is a type of implicit progress. Bazarov instead chooses to focus more on the destruction than on the progress of his nihilistic views, as pointed out by Nikolai Petrovitch: “‘You deny everything; or, speaking more precisely, you destroy everything… But one must construct too, you know’” (39). Bazarov does not “construct” anything, because, to construct, it would be necessary for Bazarov to have a vision for the future, like Arkady has a vision for Nikolai’s estate (9). Bazarov does not have a vision because he does not believe in anything, and so, as a nihilist, he can only destroy and never create.In direct contrast to Bazarov’s nihilism, Mr. Fortune focuses on the progress of his actions, and he sees destruction simply as a means to an end. Unlike Bazarov, Mr. Fortune is “a man of advanced vision” who hopes that, in the future, the town in which he lives will be renamed Fortune, Georgia (338). He believes in progress as an ideal to which he can dedicate his life, and he is not “one of these old people who fight improvement, who object to everything new and cringe at every change” (337). All of his actions align with his view of destruction as a method of progress; even his murder of his granddaughter, Mary Fortune, serves the purpose of proving to her that her romantic views are wrong (355). He is determined to impose progress on his traditional surroundings, no matter the cost.Both Ivan Turgenev and Flannery O’Connor make a comment on the success of their protagonist’s actions through the final death scene. Fathers and Sons ends at the gravesite of Bazarov, who has died after being infected with typhus. Turgenev’s final sentence reveals his view of the main tension of the novel: “However passionate, sinning, and rebellious the heart hidden in the tomb, the flowers growing over it peep serenely at us with their innocent eyes; they tell us not of eternal peace alone, of that great peace of ‘indifferent’ nature; they tell us, too, of eternal reconciliation and of life without end” (168). In the struggle between nihilism and romanticism, the flowers, representing nature, show that romanticism has finally conquered Bazarov, and that creation and life will always prevail over destruction and death. O’Connor’s final passage describing Mr. Fortune’s death and alienation with the monstrous bulldozer hold a similar, although more sobering, message: O’Connor reveals that Mr. Fortune’s ways were not successful, and that destruction in the name of progress leads to isolation and death. In all, both Fathers and Sons and “A View of the Woods” present protagonists who find themselves directly at odds with tradition. Through their destruction of the natural world, these characters ultimately destroy themselves.Works CitedO’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971. Turgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1998.
Trips in Fathers and Sons
In the novel Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev explores the inevitability of man’s integration into society by implementing effectiv structural devices. The parallel trips of the central characters highlight their emotional and intellectual paths and culminate in their seemingly inevitable fusion with society. Similarly, Turgenev’s deft control of Arkady’s and Bazarov’s cyclical journeys to their paternal homes enhances the reality that life is an inescapable force and reinforces the psychological effect of the final integration into the world around them. Additionally, the novel’s pairing of its characters and their eventual shifts in symmetry also compliments the structural climax that is the personages’ unity with the world around them. These elements help take the story out of the realm of the atypical and into the realm of the universal.The work’s structure may be examined as a series of trips, and each trip as part of a revealing progression. The journeys set off from the Marino estate to town, then from town to Odinstsova’s estate at Nikolskoe, and on to Bazarov’s parental home. From there, via separate visits, Arkady and Bazarov visit both Marino and Nikolskoe again (Knowles 73). All of the personages in the novel suffer to some extent of an identity crisis, but the two most poignant examples are, again, Arkady and Bazarov, and it is important to note that the purpose of the aforementioned trips is to facilitate the unraveling of their characters and allot to each the surprises of discovering newfound personality traits. In turn, the culminations of these physical and ideological paths are their respective unions with society.Bazarov’s self-deception is the most extreme and his journey towards self-discovery the most tragic, for he represents the power of human reason, but is defeated by passion. Seemingly apropos therefore, is that, though the events that occur during Bazarov’s stay at Marino — his frequent and acerbic disputes with Pavel Petrovich, their eventual duel, his flirting with Fenechka — contribute with their own essence to Bazarov’s physical journey and to his intellectual search for self, the two most invaluable of such events refer to his stay with Odintsova and his untimely death. In Odintsova, Bazarov meets the exception to his empirical views, and it is through her that an aspect of his personality of which he had previously been unaware is revealed to him. In short, “his brief acquaintance with her is the catalyst for a further stage in his journey toward self-knowledge” (Yarmolinsky 202). He discovers himself to be feeble and unable to abstain from the passion that boils within him, incapable of renouncing to the new range of feelings he now finds himself experiencing. Alone in his room at Nikolskoe, the narrator muses, “… love in the ideal, or, as he expressed it, romantic sense, he called lunacy, unpardonable imbecility; he regarded chivalrous sentiments as something of the nature of deformity of disease…but when he [Bazarov] was alone, with indignation he recognized idealism in himself” (Turgenev 107).The complete breakdown of Barazov’s emotional and mental barriers — set both against himself and Odintsova — occurs when he confesses his love for her and, in almost animalistic fashion, kisses her, “Let me tell you then that I love you like a fool, like a madman” (Turgenev 120). Faced with an unrequited love, however, Bazarov eventually retires to the sanctuary of his parents’ house, and there, at a loss, he experiences his darkest moments of doubt and anger at his own weakness. It is not until his death — and so his fusion with the society that surrounds him — that Bazarov comes to the culmination of his journeys. Not only has he returned to the place of his birth, but he has also gained unparalleled knowledge over the course of two months of travel; now, faced with his final journey into the abyss of death, he comes his final and most poignant realization. On his death bed he whispers, “…I thought too: I’d break down so many things, I wouldn’t die, why should I, there were problems to solve, and I was a giant! And now all the problem for the giant is how die decently,” and then interjects, “I was needed by Russia… No, It’s clear, I wasn’t needed. And who is needed? The shoemaker… the tailor… the butcher” (Turgenev 236). David A. Lowe qualifies this epiphany by saying of Bazarov, “…he had believed himself above all the laws that govern human life; his fatal infection, leading him to summon Odintsova for a last meeting in which he confesses that he is not the “giant” he had imagined himself to be demonstrates that finally he understands the extent of his self-delusion and achieves peace” (Lowe, 167). Bazarov’s journeys have culminated in self-awareness and, even in death, the union with society that accompanies such discoveries.Arkady’s journeys facilitate his self-knowledge in that they decrease Bazarov’s influence on him. A blatant example of Bazarov’s initial hold over Arkady’s actions is present at the beginning of the novel when Arkady, riding in the carriage next to his father abruptly breaks off in mid-sentence about the beauty of nature, discouraged by Bazarov’s presence from expressing his thoughts. When they reach Marino, the narrator contrastingly remarks, “Bazarov went away, and a sense of great happiness overcame Arkady. Sweet it is to fall asleep in one’s own home” (Turgenev 18). And so, the influence of Bazarov’s presence is portrayed as overwhelming. Arkady — young, insecure, shy — models his personality after his friends’, but it is mostly because of their later journeys together that he comes to find his own character and is free to assimilate into society in the role he desires. David Lowe agrees with this assumption: “Bazarov’s influence temporarily blocks the relationship between Arkady and his father and forestalls his marriage to Katya largely because Bazarov’s attitudes, which Arkady attempts in vain to adopt, prevent the latter from coming to terms with himself and his true nature” (Lowe 163). On his final visit to Katya, Arkady is most visibly emerging from Bazarov’s grasp, and he expresses his love as a new man, one who denies neither feeling nor passion and has come to grasp the mechanisms of life much more wisely. To Katya, he says, ” as before, I want to be useful, I want to devote all my powers to truth; but I no longer look for my ideals where I did; they present themselves to me…much closer to hand. Up until now I did not understand myself.” (Turgenev 211). Finally, in his final parting from Bazarov, Arkady realizes that all his own professed views on Nihilism were mere infatuation with his teacher, and that what he really wanted from life were love, marriage, and the peaceful simplicity of life at the Kirsanov estate. He too, like Bazarov, has reached the final destination of both his physical and emotional paths.Joe Blair notes that the novel’s framework also implicitly promotes the theme that, “children cannot forever deny their parents’ world, which, for better or worse, represents the mainstream of mankind. Children ultimately return home and, willingly or grudgingly, become reconciled to it… the lives of the fathers become patterns for understanding the lives of the children” (Lowe 162). This cyclical path — one that Turgenev treats as universal — embodies an additional example of the novel’s structural patterns, those that culminate in the characters’ integration into society. Aside from the blatant, almost obtrusive, symbolism of the cyclical return to one’s origins, this particular element of the novel’s structure draws a significant parallel between Arkady and Bazarov. As the novel unravels, Arkady is found to be surprisingly akin to his father in that their lives have followed similar patterns. This assertion is supported by Bazarov’s occasional remarks on the similarities between Arkady and his relatives, and by his and Nikolay Petrovich’s shared qualities: both attended schools in St. Petersburg, both returned home to a more provincial Russia, both fell in love and married, and both eventually run an estate. In addition, once Bazarov’s influence is eliminated, Arkady’s interests in nature, music, art, and love come to resemble much those of the older Kirsanov. This parallelism highlights Arkady’s cyclical journey and is one of the most effective examples of the inescapable onset of man’s integration into the society around him, preferably in joyous, moderately successful terms like Arkady’s. Knowles agrees in his qualification of father and son and their fusion into society: “There is nothing in any way outstanding about either of them; they are both average men of their generation and class… all in all they fit in with the time-honored traditions of thought and behavior expected of them” (Knowles 82).Turgenev contrasts Bazarov’s and Arkady’s returns to their homes, unsurprisingly, to produce analogous effects. Bazarov is, unlike his “disciple,” very different from his religious, superstitious, emotional and simple-minded family; he is a man of reason. Despite the instances when their differences are clearly expressed — Bazarov’s uncaring attitude towards his doting mother and his father’s somewhat comic attempts to gain his son’s trust and love — Bazarov’s return is essential for the development of the central motif of integration into society. It is only in the place of his origin that Bazarov can dwell on his failure to resist love, on his inability to act like the man he has expressed a sincere desire to be, and it is only once this cyclical return is completed that he can achieve a true understanding of his own persona and, at last, take his place in society. And so, the outspoken Nihilist’s visit to his parents can be seen as an attempt to recapture in the surroundings of his parental abode the stability he has lost, and that which mocks him everywhere else (Knowles 82). It is here that he can reflect as he emphatically states, “I’m thinking life is a happy thing for my parents… [they] are absorbed and don’t trouble themselves about their own nothingness; it doesn’t sicken them… while I… I feel nothing but weariness and anger” (Turgenev 149). In this home, that of his ancestors, Bazarov becomes integrated into society by, ironically and yet somewhat appropriately, leaving it. Additionally, from the onset, Arkady and Bazarov are perceived as a pair, united by their shared socio-political views, and Pavel and Nikolay are grouped as “the elder Kirsanovs.” As the plot unfolds, however, the previous symmetry gives way to a different more balanced, more in tune with society grouping: Nikolay and Fenechka, and Arkady and Katya. Blair agrees, stating, “The principle of composition operating in the novel is the grouping and regrouping of characters… we observe the initial groups of characters dissolve and perceive the formation of new pairs” (Lowe 164).Though Nikolay’s marriage may be viewed as more socially progressive than his son’s because he is marrying a peasant, it is this overall shift in character grouping that relieves the climactic tension of the novel by integrating a sense of justice and peace. In part due to this reapportionment of personalities, the novel’s structure effectively showcases integration into society as a desirable end; this notion is supported by an epilogue in which all of the characters achieve this goal. Arkady has discovered the life he has really intended to live all along and married Katya; Nikolay Petrovich has managed to stabilize his household, gain the blessing of his ornery brother, and marry the mother of his child; Pavel Petrovich, though not necessarily satiated and joyous, reaches a satisfactory plateau in his life, one in which he is happy to emigrate to Europe and “make some noise in the world”; and Bazarov gains both enlightenment and humility before his death (Turgenev 241). The Kirsanov’s household is qualified thus: “All the others smiled, and also seemed apologetic; they were all a little awkward, a little sorry, and in reality very happy” (Turgenev 238). Even Bazarov seems to have been integrated into society as much as he ever could have been in a Russia that had no place for him in the social fabric of the time (Yarmolinsky 197).A.V. Knowles believes that, “It could also be argued that both Bazarov and Pavel before their respective ends do achieve and integration of sorts with society inasmuch as both of them give approval to the marriages they had earlier opposed” (Knowles 72). It is through this resolution of conflicts that Pavel Petrovich and Bazarov regularize not only the others’ positions, but also their own. Ivan Turgenev succeeds in illustrating the inescapable need for integration into society in his novel Fathers and Sons. By structurally showcasing the central personages’ paths, simultaneously identifying their cyclical journeys, and changing the symmetry of their contextual grouping, Turgenev highlights the value of unity in family and society, and the characteristic rhythms of human nature.Works CitedKnowles, A.V. Ivan Turgenev. Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co., 1988.Lowe, David A. Critical Essays on Ivan Turgenev. Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989.Turgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 2000.Yarmolinsky, Avrahm. Turgenev: The Man, His Art, and His Age. New York: Octagon Books, 1977.
Characters Through the Looking Glass: An Analytical Exploration of Major Characters on the Characterization of the Pseudo-Antagonist in Fathers and Sons.
There is so much more to an individual that what they do or what they say. By limiting one’s judgment to the two above criteria, one is subject to falling short of the true light. It is common in literature because of this nuance in personality, for authors to supplement direct characterization through indirect methods, which happens via other characters in any piece of work. This is evident in Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. Rather than listing all the traits of his characters on a page, Turgenev exemplified said traits through other characters. This is seen with his treatment of Bazarov, and his relationships with Pavel and Anna Odintsov. By crafting these interpersonal relationships, Turgenev is able to communicate both Bazarov’s confidence and reveal the inner weakness that lies beneath.
Turgenev effectively highlights Bazarov’s confidence and snide demeanors by introducing a Foil: Pavel. Bazarov and Pavel are both symbols of the political ideologies at the time. Pavel, a member of the old generation, is Turgenev’s personification of old Russia and the Romantic way of life. Juxtapositioned, Bazarov: the personification of Nihilism and the hubris that the movement brings with it. As seen in the exposition of the novel, when Bazarov, supposedly a nihilist at the height of his power, faces Pavel, who opposes all that he stands for, and this almost superficial strength that Bazarov seems to emanate during their interlocution is a representation of the strength that the nihilist movement seemed to have obtained at the end of the 19th century in Russia. All characters besides Pavel admire Bazarov during the rising action of the novel, to such an extent that Bazarov has a dedicated following, heeding his every word. Pavel, on the other hand, though he does not have such a following, is regarded as a wise but a member of the community who though led astray, through life experiences has become sage and shrewd. The two characters offer strong perspectives from which individuals in 19th century Russians could view the world. By placing Bazarov next to Pavel, Turgenev is able to communicate the superficial strength of both the political movements and consequently Bazarov’s ostensible strength.
Turgenev is able to reveal the weakness in Bazarov’s character by introducing Anna, who is the catalyst to his downfall. Though the two are not traditional foils, there are many interesting aspects of Bazarov’s character are exposed by Turgenev by virtue of Anna Odintsov, and the agency that is bestowed upon her. Bazarov is indifferent to the world around him as a part of his ideology. Anna, on the other hand, is indifferent to the world by dint of her personality. Anna’s effortless apathy is critical to understanding the weakness of Bazarov and the pain he suffered. Anna does not miss Bazarov when he was gone, whereas he unceasingly longs for her return, even in the brief moments during which his reality is halted with the blinking of his eyes. Subsequently, while on his deathbed, Bazarov calls for Anna, and yearns for her presence, but as she sits next to him on the sofa, her emotions seem to be locked in a chest deep within her, a chest not even opened in the face of death. This contrast shows how though Bazarov portrayed himself as this strong nihilist that was going to tear apart the romanticism with which the fabric of society was sewn, he is not able to suppress the passion which overcomes him and uphold the nihilist principles by which he supposedly lives. This aforementioned love, this natural phenomenon of an emotion, is something that happens to both Bazarov and Anna, and the discrepancy between their reactions is an interesting one. Anna, an animal of comfort, though with some pain, is able to retreat into her warm bathtub, after the cold breeze of passion is locked away as she closes the window on Bazarov and his confession. She is able to remarry comfortably and lives the rest of her life exactly the way she wants to. Bazarov however, lives out the rest of his days, however few there may be, in constant agony, perpetually reminded of the pain forced upon him by Anna’s rejection. Love is a force that hits both of them, and both of them leave chapter 18 alone, yet Anna is able to recuperate, but Bazarov is not. Turgenev even heightens this contrast with Bazarov’s death, as he lets himself slip away because of a trivial injury due to his lack of motivation to carry on in his life without his beloved. Ergo, Turgenev is able to place a focal point on the weakness of Bazarov’s character by virtue of his interactions with Anna, and the contrasts between their characters.
Throughout the novel Fathers and Sons, Turgenev uses Pavel and Anna to service the reader’s understanding of Bazarov’s confident exterior and vulnerable interior. No one individual can be characterized directly, no matter how talented the author. Turgenev is able to aid his readers in the discovery of his characters in a manner that is to be rivaled by others for all of eternity. The complex duality to the character can be seen outside the scope of literature as well. No one individual, fictional or flesh, can be characterized in a sentence, even a paragraph, and one must always be left wondering what more is left underneath the surface of all the shells of people desperately trying to navigate the maze that we call reality.
The Hamlets and Don-Quixotes in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons
Two years before Fathers and Sons was published, Turgenev gave a speech titled “Hamlet and Don Quixote,” in which he cross-analyzed Hamlet and Don Quixote as two antitheses of basic human tendencies. For Turgenev, Don Quixote represented the ultimate altruism and conviction. Although being a fool of naivety, Don Quixote has faith for life, and he tries to achieve it through self-sacrifices and “undeviating worship” (94). He is an enthusiast and thrives with delights when devoting himself to his ideas (95). Hamlet, on the other hand, represents the ultimate egoism and skepticism. He doubts everything – “pitilessly includes his own self in those doubts,” and his self-awareness tortures him and makes it impossible for him to love, as well as to be loved (96-97). Also, despite his intelligence, Hamlet dies as fate’s fool without any real action (98). Turgenev took a clear stand against the Hamlets but at the same time acknowledged that the Don Quixotes execute passions blindly to the point of ridicule instead of merit (104). Turgenev concluded with a dualistic viewpoint and suggested balancing the elements of analysis and emotion in a person rather than taking the extremities.
This pro-conservative viewing of life as a compromise between thoughts and feelings is further developed in Fathers and Sons. Turgenev created Bazarov as his Russian Hamlet and bestowed many of Don Quixote’s qualities on Pavel Kirsanov. With the unfulfillment of both prototypes, Turgenev rewarded a satisfactory ending to Arkady and Nikolai, who by voluntary dismissing the above extremities, choose their mediocre stands on the human tendency spectrum and carry out life and its tedious responsibility.
It is interesting to note that Bazarov is addressed primarily by his last name in the novel as contrary to all the other major characters, associating the name with an almost symbolistic formality as if he is the focus of study – Bazarovian, echoing with Hamletian as the study of Hamlet. Bazarov shared with Hamlet the skepticism and egoistic behaviors, the nihilistic denial against the established order and higher powers, the refusal of genuine emotions such as love, and the ironic reflection on self-imposed death. Of course, considerable differences still exist between the two characters as they differ in social backgrounds: Hamlet is a 1600s royal aristocrat who learns the truth of his father’s death from a spirit. While Bazarov, being a part of the rising lower-rank intelligentsia in Russia, takes a materialist view and regards science as the only truth.
Neither Bazarov nor Hamlet has a firm belief in anything established, be it social order, convention, or God. Being unsatisfied with their current situation, they hover at the margin and brew up thoughts of revolt. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it [Denmark] is a prison.” Hamlet claimed in the second act of the play (Shakespeare 120). Such a denial of fundamentality, as Schlegel pointed out, rejects not only the presence of human sins and God but also any action, for action requires illusions (405). Bazarov also rejected everything of the present, as he proclaimed: “We act by virtue of what we recognise as beneficial […] At the present time, negation is the most beneficial of all—and we deny […] Everything!” (Fathers and Sons 40). As Arkardy stated, Bazarov and the nihilists are a “force” that destroys, yet just like Hamlet having absolutely no plan for what to do after his revenge and coup d’état, Bazarov never thinks about what it will be like on the clean slate after the overturn (Fathers and Sons 43). Indeed, just as he states to Pavel, “what could induce one to talk and think about the future, which for the most part does not depend on us?” (81).
Moreover, Bazarov and Hamlet are both in their nature egoists with rigorous reasoning ability, and they both end up devoured by self-skepticism. Precisely like Hamlet who occupy all his energy with indecisive thoughts and ends up with semi-madness and suicidal conclusions, Bazarov occupies himself entirely in doubts because he is unable to determine the nature of his relationship with Odinsova, and he too descends into a desperate mentality. Starting to reject even his own belief system, Bazarov the nihilist becomes depressed and hopelessly tried to grasp an answer from anyone, even passing peasants, who apparently could not give any (146). Gary Jahn, in his analysis of the novel’s relationship patterns, pointed out Bazarov’s dilemma “from which the only exits are a harmonization of antitheses or death”. “Unable to achieve the former, possibly even unaware of the true nature of his difficulty, [Bazarov] falls willing victim to the latter” (90).
Thus eventually, deaths of both Bazarov and Hamlet befall surprisingly yet inevitably. Of the exact ironic manner – a small but fatal wound inflicted through extremely rare chance, – Bazarov and Hamlet died tragically and disturbingly but left behind nothing tangible. Hamlet was killed before he can contribute any of his knowledge to the governing of his country, and Bazarov died with all his underdeveloped ideas and unsolved problems. “I’d break down so many things, I wouldn’t die, why should I!” thought Bazarov unreconcilably on his deathbed, “And now all the problem for the giant is how to die decently, though that makes no difference to anyone either.…” (Fathers and Sons 154). Both Hamlet and Bazarov ended up being nothing but fools manipulated by fate’s “old joke” and were soon forgotten: memories of Hamlet would disappear with the newly crowned Norwegian prince, and Bazarov too soon faded into oblivion with only his eldered parents weeping at his gravestone (159).
Finally, Bazarov and Hamlet also share the refusal of basic human emotions and the backfire of such denial. Hamlet’s nihilistic tendency makes him incapable of love, and Ophelia to him is but a pawn in his game of revenge. However, upon viewing the dead Ophelia, Hamlet experienced a genuine and robust emotion which at that moment he interpreted as love. Took action without reasoning and leaped into her grave he proclaimed: “I love Ophelia – forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?” (Shakespeare 328). Hamlet did not have the time or wish to ponder upon that unexpected emotion as the play rushes towards its climax, but Bazarov did after he fell in love with Odinsova. As a materialist who regarded feelings as no more than constructible physical responses, the realization of his involuntary “romanticism” vexed and scared him (Jahn 90). It was not until his death when he accepted his emotion as part of his nature and confessed to Odinsova “I love you! […] Love is a form, and my own form is already breaking up” (Fathers and Sons 154).
Unlike the enormous resemblance between characteristics of Bazarov and Hamlet, there exhibited less similarity between Pavel and Don Quixote. Pavel is strongly egocentric compare to Don Quixote’s readiness for self-sacrifices. However, Don Quixote and Pavel are both attracted to traditional romantic virtues; they are both less educated and rely more on intuition rather than reasoning, and they both exhibit extreme stubbornness in their pursuit of self-imposed ideals.
Just as Don Quixote fixates himself on chivalry after reading immensely about it, Pavel focuses all his efforts on trying to be an English gentleman because he adores England’s democratic structure and the elegance of its aristocrats. Despite his actual discomfort and reservation when he is around English people, Pavel nonetheless sticks to his ideal living style (158). Pavel’s blind devotion corresponds to Don Quixote’s impudence when acting out his so-called chivalry, which ends up revealing a comic aspect of the character.
With their romantic and enthusiastic nature, Pavel and Don Quixote also pursuit love waywardly with great naivety. As Turgenev pointed out in his speech: “Don Quixote loves an imaginary, nonexistent Dulcinea and is ready to give his life for her… loves ideally, chastely, so ideally that he does not discover that the object of his passion does not exist.” (“Hamlet and Don Quixote” 100). With Pavel, he devotes his youth to the fruitless pursuit of a woman whom he cannot conquer, and he later becomes superfluous over his love triangle with Nikolai regarding Fedosya. Both Don Quixote and Pavel end up as beaten and languid obsoletes. Having given up all passion and pursuit, they fade into the tide of history. Indeed, relying primarily on the whims of emotion, people such as Pavel and Don Quixote soon become “dead” mentally as soon as the will power runs out (Fathers and Sons 130).
As Turgenev’s archetypes for Hamlet and Don Quixote, neither Bazarov nor Pavel received happisness and fulfillment at the end of the novel. Turgenev himself believed that true happiness in life is a “union of positive human character,” a perfect balance of thought and feeling (Jahn 89, “Hamlet and Don Quixote” 102). Thus, in the context of Fathers and Sons, it could be argued that such ideal happiness presents itself in the life of Arkardy and Nikolai Petrovitch. On the one hand, both Nikolai and Arkardy are married to the women they love who provide them with emotional richness and family love. On the other hand, they utilize their thinking in important problems such as the management of estate and emancipation reforms that unite both the “refined” and “uncultivated” gentries (Fathers and Sons 157). They possess the passion that allows them to stay constantly in action but at the same time they also have the power for critical thinking if they choose to. Because of such inner balance, they can achieve psychological wellbeing as well as societal fulfillment, at least in the imaginary realm of the novel.
However, Turgenev perfunctorily sketched over how exactly Nikolai and Arkardy accomplish such a successful living. What kinds of agricultural reforms did they install to increase productivity and save their fallen estate? How did they deal with the tension between gentries and former surfs that grew day by day? Also, let alone emancipation reform, did they even have a future proposed for their own peasants? The truth is, Nikolai and Arkardy, despite their integrated nature, are mediocre. They follow the extremists with admiration but soon discover that such lifestyles – to dive deep into an aspect or execute it out with utmost devotion – is too much a burden to the mind and body. They quit being at the forefront and feel satisfied as the ordinary. They would have no intention for social progressions because they are busily occupied with their individual living and are perfectly happy about it. Unfortunately, in Turgenev’s Russia with the growth of social tension, the apparent tranquility of aristocratic family life is merely a mirror image that would inevitably shatter from turmoil underneath. When an old society finally falls apart, there are no happiness reserves for all individuals no matter where one stands on the human spectrum.
Turgenev himself realized the unavoidable collision between the two ends of the social gap, and he did not try to stop it. In fact, Turgenev did not force on his personal opinions to praise or condemn any character, as other social writers, like Dickens, often did. Fathers and Sons enables open interpretation from extreme revolutionist to devote conservatives alike. All sides of Critics saw a bit of Bazarovian elements in themselves – just as Hamlet attracting viewers with opposite opinions and appealing to something inside them. An intense discussion was raised “on who the nihilists were and what they should become” (Pozefsky 571). And with the growth of overall revolution spirits, young Russians after 1862 were “almost all out of What is to be Done, with the addition of a few of Bazarov’s traits” (Brumfield 495). Fathers and sons, with its accurate observation on human nature, brought up much more political attention than that of its personal and interpersonal aspects, which arguably, is more of Turgenev’s focus of this novel.
In conclusion, Fathers and Sons is conceivably a continuation of the discussion on Hamlet and Don Quixote as two ends on the spectrum of human nature. Bazarov and Pavel, as two culturally-modified archetypes, significantly reflect social mentality and appeal to every active thinker of the time. The discussion surrounding the novel laid the ideological foundation for the extremists and radicals, whom with both Bazarovian thinking and Don Quixote’s never-compromising devotion, executed a serious of historical events that followed.
 Thanks to the convenience of kindle format, it could be clearly identified that the surname Bazarov appeared five-hundred times in the text while his first name and patronymic Yevgeny Vassilyitch appeared only thirty-four times. Interestingly, Anna Sergevna Odintsova, the main female protagonist, has her last name addressed a-hundred-and-one times, a close match with the number of appearances of her first name and patronymic: a -hundred-and-twenty times.
Brumfield, William. “Bazarov and Rjazanov: The Romantic Archetypes in Russian Nihilism.” The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4, 1977, pp. 495-505.
Jahn, Gary. “Character and Theme in ‘Fathers and Sons’.” College Literature, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1997, pp. 80-91.
Pozefsky, Peter. “Smoke as ‘Strange and Sinister Commentary on Fathers and Sons’: Dostoevskii, Pisarev and Turgenev on Nihilists and Their Representations.” The Russian Review, Vol.54, No.4, 1995, pp. 571-586.
Schlegel, August Wilhelm von. Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, Translated by John Black. George & Sons, 1894, 405-406.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by Abigail Rokison-Woodail. Arden Performance Editions (kindle format), 2017.
– Fathers and Sons. Translated by Constance Garnett. digiREADS, 2017, kindle format.
— “Hamlet and Don Quixote”. Translated by Moshe Spiegel. Chicago Review, Vo.17, No.4, 1965, 92-109.