Kathy's Reviews > Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
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's review
Nov 04, 2007

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bookshelves: russian, fiction-novels

This novel could also be called “Generations” It’s how two different sons and fathers deal with the changes happening around them. The book starts when Arkady returns home from school with his friend Bazarov to the home of his father, Nicholas. His uncle Pavel also lives there. Nicholas is trying to stay with the times and has set his serfs free, but his estate has fallen into disrepair. He also has been having a relationship with a former servant, Fenichka, and has fathered a child.
Bazarov is very outspoken and immediately irritates Pavel with his opinions. Arkady looks up to Bazarov and his new “nihilistic” ideas and is a little embarrassed about his father’s old ways but obviously loves him very much.
Pavel, I think, is the “superfluous man” of Russian literature. He is tired of life but thinks it should at least continue on as it always has.
The young men stay at the estate for a while and stir things up and then move on to stay with Anna Sergeyevna, Madame Odintzov for a while. They are both enamored with her, Arkady with a schoolboy crush but Bazarov, much to his surprise, falling deeply in love. It goes against all of the beliefs he thought he had down so well. After he declares his love for her and is disappointed with himself and her reaction, the “sons” decide to move onto where Bazarov’s parents have been waiting patiently for him to visit.
After some travels back and forth to Arkday’s home and Madame Odintzov’s, Bazarov ends up back at home with his parents where he contracts typhus while carelessly performing an autopsy. Did he commit suicide? He was set in his “nihilistic” ways and didn’t see any purpose for emotions and then he fell madly in love with Madame Odintzov. I’m sure he was questioning everything about his beliefs.
Arkady and Katya get married and also Nicholas and Fenichka.
This was interesting to read about Russia at that time, the serfs etc. It was a Russian story, but also a universal one of the traditional vs. contemporary, younger generation and older generation – change.
The time was very similar to the Deep South after the Civil War:
—old landowners (Nicholas) trying to progress but not knowing how to go about it – the serfs have been set free like the slaves being emancipated,
—the young (Basarov) coming in brash and telling it how they see it,
—the young heir (Arkady) loving his parents and his past way of life but very impressionable by the new ideas of his slightly older contemporaries,
—the older generation that can’t quite get used to the idea of change (Pavel-the “superfluous man”)
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