"Fathers and sons" is a novel by Ivan Turgenev, a Russian author. Turgenev was writing about nihilism through the character of Yevgeny Vasilevich Bazarov. Other characters from the novel are Anna Odintsova, Arkady Kirsanov, Pavel Kirsanov, Nikolai Kirsanov…
The novel shows life in Russia during the 19th century. The novel is based on differences, for example, differences between generations, social classes… Division, as one of the main novel’s themes, includes division between characters.
The generation’s conflict described in the novel is similar to the one between different social classes and it’s emphasized in the conflict between Bazarov and Pavel Kirsanov. Alongside the mentioned conflict, there are other signs that point out how important the difference between lower and upper classes is.
Turgenev used language to show the misunderstanding between classes. The language he uses points out that there are conversations but there is no comprehension between people who speak.
Turgenev had a radical stand about the sensitive aristocracy and a patriarchal one about women’s rights. He also talked about the contrast in love through Katya and Arkady’s happy relationship which ended in marriage and children and the sad and desperate relationship between Anna and Bazarov which had no future. The mentioned contrast is best shown when Katya and Arkady, before his proposal, hear a conversation between Bazarov and Anna.
Bazarov’s nihilism is put in question because he picked something to believe in, which was science, while on the other hand, we have Anna that had her beliefs and stuck with them until the very end.
Bazarov was a romantic, even though he never said it out loud and he has some characteristics which he hates in Pavel, for example, he allowed himself to fall in love. The real difference between Bazarov and Pavel is that Bazarov dies in the end while Pavel stays partially alive.
Place: nobility’s estate in Russia
Everything happens in 1859 when the family is expecting Arkady’s return from Petersburg where he was studying. Five hours have passed and the family was still waiting for him. When he finally appeared, he wasn’t alone. He took his friend and doctor Bazarov with him.
When the whole family was gathered they headed for Nikolai’s estate where he lived for ten years with his late wife and his son who just returned from his studies.
Since his wife passed away Pavel, Nikolai’s brother, lived with him and Nikolai fell in love with Fenichka again and had another child.
The generation’s conflict is noticeable in the relationship between Nikolai and Fenichka because she is much younger than him. He didn’t marry her out of respect for his older brother Pavel.
Arkady approaches her to say hello. A fight between Pavel and Bazarov occurs because Pavel tried to present himself as a conservative and retired officer and Bazarov was shown off as a rebel against everything. The whole time Nikolai felt the fear of Bazarov’s influence on his son Arkady.
Two months past and Nikolai got a letter from a cousin inviting him and Arkady to visit him in the city. Since Nikolai and Pavel were bored of him, Bazarov and Arkady went to see him. Bazarov thought it was a great opportunity to get some time away from Pavel who he considered to be rude and cynical.
Their staying in the city was exciting and at the beginning, Bazarov met Anna, a woman who interested him even though he was reluctant to admit it. Anna invited them to stay at her place so they did.
They stayed there for 15 days and Arkady was fooling around with Katya, Anna’s younger sister, but he was a bit sad about it because he thought that Bazarov like Katya and not Anna. Feelings between Bazarov and Anna were mutual. Bazarov wasn’t thrilled about his feelings because love was stupidity for him but Bazarov followed his heart and not his head.
Unfortunately, Anna rejected him because she cared about her peace more than his feelings for her and it caused Arkady and Bazarov to go to Bazarov’s parents who were excited about seeing their son.
When they came back to Nikolai’s estate Bazarov got into another fight with Pavel. Bazarov spent his days working and flirting with Fenichka. One morning Pavel saw Bazarov kissing her and he challenged him. Pavel ended up hurt and since his leg wound wasn’t serious Bazarov helped him and Pavel was grateful.
Pavel, while talking to Fenichka, was convinced her love for Nikolai was true and since their situation made him recall a similar one he had, he decided to go to Nikolai and ask him to marry Fenichka. Nikolai wasn’t thrilled about the turn of events.
Arkady was away when Bazarov and Pavel confronted each other and everyone thought he was out of town for business when in reality he was going to see Anna without being aware of the fact that he liked Katya. Soon Bazarov joined him and kept spending time with Anna. Arkady realized he was in love with Katya and, with Anna’s help, he went to see her father get his blessing.
Bazarov went home to help his father, who was a doctor, and Bazarov got typhus. He sent a message to Anna saying that he is dying and that he wanted to see her. After seeing her he died in peace. Six months after his death Kirsan’s celebrated Nikolai and Fenichka’s and Katya and Arkady’s weeding. Anna also got married but not out of love. She married a Russian ambassador in hopes she’ll love him one day. Bazarov’s parents kept on visiting their son’s grave.
Characters: Arkady, Pavle and Nikolai Kirsanov; Yevgeny Bazarov, Anna, and Katya
Yevgeny Bazarov is the main characters of the novel. He is a smart medicine student and a man with a strong character who doesn’t give up his principles easy. His encounters with people never left him indifferent whether he was encountering Arkady, who he loved, or Pavel, who he hated.
He relied on his knowledge, strength, and science and rejected all of the traditional values such as patriotism, religion, politics and any kind of feelings. Bazarov is a true nihilist and a critic of the aristocracy.
His nihilism is questioned in the end because he did believe in something and fell in love with Anna. After he was rejected by Anna he had an emotional and physical breakdown.
Before he died he was left with his parent’s loyalty, love for Anna and friendship with Arkady who idealized him.
Arkady was Nikolai Kirsanov’s son who came back from studying in Petersburg. Arkady came with Bazarov who he idealized and followed in everything. Unlike Bazarov, Arkady was less mature and fooled around while Bazarov was studying.
He is described to be unaware of his feelings. Even though he believed that his heart belonged to Anna he came to realize that he had feelings for Katya all along.
Even though Arkady was less mature that Bazarov, in the end, he was ready to admit his real feelings and marry Katya.
Anna is probably the only true nihilist in this novel because she stayed faithful to her ideals even though Bazarov’s death hurt her. He was a wealthy widow and an attractive woman that, despite being open to new experiences, lived in the comfort of luxury without passion or excitement.
The proof of her strength and nihilism is the moment she rejected Bazarov’s courting. Even though she wasn’t immune to it she managed to push down the feelings that got over her when he hugged her.
Pavel Kirsanov was a retired officer and Nikolai’s older brother. He came to his brother’s estate after he retired and meant to stay there until he died. He had a relationship with a woman when he was young and she abandoned him.
The disappointment of being abandoned got the best of him and from an ambitious man he became unambitious and led a meaningless life. He had a strong character and was of conservative thinking.
Pavel hated Bazarov for calling him a cynic. Even though he spent a lifetime without love he realized how important love was and decided to help Fenichka and Nikolai in their relationship.
Nikolai Kirsanov was a middle-aged man who had a liberal outlook on life and people around him thought he was radical in his opinions. He freed his peons and helped his family get through financial difficulties and organizations after their liberation.
Nikolai cared a lot about his family and values so he didn’t want to marry Fenichka out of respect for his brother because he knew Pavel would never accept their marriage. Nikolai had a wife who died and after many years he found happiness with another woman.
Ivan Turgenev Biography
Ivan Turgenev was a Russian writer. He was born in 1818 in a wealthy family. He spent most of his childhood in his mother’s estate and foreign teachers helped his education.
He was only five when he traveled through west Europe with his family and lived six months in Paris. Even though he had everything as a child he never liked talking about it because of the relationship between his parents. He found his rescue in studying in Moscow, Petersburg, and Berlin.
In 1841 he came back to Russia wanting to teach but it didn’t go well as planned so he dedicated himself to writing, even though his mother didn’t approve of his decision.
Two years after coming back to Russia he published a poem which was accepted by the critics. In 1843 he met an opera singer Pauline Viardot and left his office in the ministry and went out of Russia to pursue his writing.
In 1852 he published "The Hunter’s Sketches" and he was well known for his stories in which he described the relationship between peons and their superiors. He described peons like human beings and he did it 9 years before peonage was over. His ideas were thought to be revolutionary.
In 1856 he published his first novel "Rudin". His other novels are "A Nest of Gentlefolk", "On the Eve", "Fathers and sons", "Smoke"…
He died in 1883 near Paris and he was buried in Petersburg.