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.
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