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There are winners and losers in the novel. What factors seem to influence the happiness or satisfaction of the key characters? Are Bazarov and his ideals the real victims?

17 Responses to “Fathers and Sons continued”

  1. Sarah Bellingham says:

    Are there losers in this novel? Along with Brandt and Romany, I think that Bazarov won in his own way. Could anyone imagine an ending to this novel where he did not die?

    Perhaps a message that could be extricated from (or, if you disagree with me, forced upon) this novel is the idea that in order to have any level of significance, importance, or validation, you have to live in society. Your significance is completely relative to the system; it is created and supported by the structure.

    In the end, Arkady and Katya function in society. They fall in love, marry, and do not question their fate to far. Nikolai and Fenitchka marry, which is against the norms of their society. However, because they look at this as breaking a rule, they acknowledge the idea of a society and their place in (and relative to) it. Pavel works hard to uphold society and culture as he knows it, and feels validated by the existence of it. Being—or having been—at the top of this society, it is important to him.

    On the other hand, Bazarov could not accept the system. He saw that it was merely a structure. It was man made, and therefore, he seemed to conclude, pointless. Unable to inwardly separate himself from his allegiance with society’s rules, he seems to have given up. How can we extricate ourselves from ourselves enough to see the world objectively? It is not possible. Somebody who buys into nihilism as much as Bazarov and is able to understand it’s paradox relative to the human condition loses hope. Perhaps then the best thing was death.

  2. Katherine Burdine says:

    It seems to me that each of the characters in Fathers and Sons end up getting what he or she desires. However, not everyone desires happiness. Arkady and Katia do; Arkady’s nihilism was a veneer, an experiment, and beneath that he is a son made very much in the mould of his simple, good-natured father. Like his parents before him, he wants love, peace, prosperity, and children and with Katia he seems in a fair way to get them. Anna Sergeevna on the other had would probably have no use for the tender, romantic love that has made Katia and Arkady so happy. Deep down she is surely more interested in securing her wealth and independent position. Since her marriage will have helped her do it, it has probably made her happy, despite its unromantic nature. Pavel Petrovich was always more happy suffering on the altar of unrequited love then actually finding someone with whom he could really be with. In that sense, his self-imposed exile in Dresden probably suits him admirably.

    As for Bazarov…did he want to die? He surely wanted to tempt fate. The duel, the careless dissection of a typhus victim. Perhaps it is better to say that he wanted nothing else, and as he says himself, things rush in to fill the void in people. For Arkady it was love, but for Bazarov it was death.

  3. Margaret Fulford says:

    I feel that Bazarov’s death was… fitting, like some others have mentioned. I’m not happy that he died and I don’t consider him a “winner” in the sense we are talking about, but I do think that the preventable way in which he contracts the sickness tells a lot about his character. He certainly wasn’t consciously trying to kill himself, but I think that his view of life did change over the course of the novel. While Arkady didn’t try to or succeed in swaying Bazarov from the nihilist way, I think that seeing Arkady find happiness with Katya had a subconscious effect on Bazarov. Certainly Bazarov’s love for Odintsova was the most important game-changer in the novel, and I think it was ultimately the power of love, and the desire to ignore it, that drove him to so occupy himself with medical work that he carelessly hurt himself and contracted typhoid. In a way, his nihilistic tendencies killed him. Superficially, he is a “loser,” although I don’t think that Turgenev meant his fate to be a complete rejection of nihilism.
    As people above have mentioned, Bazarov’s parents are the most victimized; they obviously loved their son, and his death was painful. Even Bazarov’s closest friends found happiness in their new lives.

  4. Laura Howard says:

    I don’t believe that death made Bazarov a “loser”. His fate seemed exactly right for him, in that he was forced to come to terms with an “authority” that he could not escape. Though Bazarov may have turned away from politics, art, and love, death is still the one force that he would have to encounter sooner or later. Death is beyond humans’ control. What I find interesting is the way in which Bazarov dealt with his coming death. He tells his father nonchalantly that he has dissected a man with typhus and has cut himself. He goes about his life right before the infection sets in as if he is invincible and nothing can bother him. This does not make Bazarov a loser – it simply makes him “Bazarov”.

    As for some of the other characters, I agree with everyone who painted Arkady as a winner. He finally broke off from Bazarov and found his own true voice. His father, too – definitely a winner, for managing to keep his family together and functioning. And Pavel, I believe, is a semi-sad character, for being alone, though he exemplifies the same strong characteristic as Arkady – in order to find his own happiness, he does what he knows is right for himself.

    Because they do not follow this model of seeking their own happiness, I feel that Bazarov’s parents are victims, though not for a fault entirely their own. Bazarov’s parents are indulgent and scared of their own son. The description of the extent to which they have let their son be the pinnacle of their life – when Bazarov’s mother says, for instance, to her husband, that it’s just them together, growing old – shows the sadness that they have let Bazarov wreak on their life. Bazarov was a victim of himself – his parents, unfortunately, are a victim of him too.

  5. Russell Jacobs says:

    Bazarov’s ideals don’t quite die with him, but they come close. His own personal conviction, it can be argued, remains intact to the end. The ideals themselves, though, (and Bazarov was certainly political outside of the pursuit of his own personal satisfaction; he had a dream about changing the world, as evidenced in his conversation with Arkady about Sitnikov in which Bazarov says something along the lines of “we need dummies like him”) seem to be in the hands of less competent and thoughtful folk. We get a little glimpse of Sitnikov at book’s end carrying on the “work” (Turgenev’s quotation marks) that Bazarov wanted done, in the company of men “who don’t know oxygen from nitrogen, but are filled with scepticism and self-conceit” (233). When the idiots are nihilists, dark times are upon us.

    Bazarov’s parents seem to me to be the biggest “losers.” At the end of the book I couldn’t help looking at their mourning process through Bazarov’s eyes. Not the sadness itself, but the visits to the graveyard, the place in which the landscape somehow reaffirms, Turgenev tells us, the existence of a larger-than-life, transcendent spirituality. The visits seemed somehow illogical to me, considering their son’s views. I guess I felt that if they truly believed in a universe in which Bazarov’s soul deserved respect, they would acknowledge the way he would almost certainly feel about the visits to his tomb. The whole thing seems slightly contradictory. That said, they were the characters for whom I felt the most at the books conclusion.

  6. Melody Wang says:

    I think there are two significant factors that influence the happiness/satisfaction of the characters: 1) everything in moderation; 2) the ability to reconcile/recognize the discrepancy between one’s ideal and the reality.) Arkady, even though has been an ardent disciple of Bazarov and does not possess overwhelmingly charismatic and creative qualities compare to that of his master, Arkady’s aesthetic appreciation and moderate temperaments/ flexibility enable him to comes to terms with his real self.
    In the beginning of Arkady’s homecoming, he undoubtedly tries to establish a separate identity from his father; and aspires to be his new idol, the elite and progressive Bazarov. Nevertheless, Arkady gradually finds himself sharing most of Nikolai’s romanticism and traditional virtues. As Arkady comes to terms with his real self, he manages to find love, as well as consolation in “farm” management. Essentially speaking, Arkady is the desirable hero who manages to reconcile generational gaps and take great care of his family’s affair, which are practical and necessary step to preserve his inheritance. Whereas, Bazarov, from the very beginning, presents himself as an extreme rational and non-sentimental youth, it is evident that Bazarov’s rejection of romantic sentiments becomes impossible when he falls in love with Anna. And his inability to control his sentimental side, in which he adamantly strives to deny and manipulate, exposes his vulnerability to cope with Anna’s rejection. And Bazarov’s suicidal death attests to his ultimate inability to reconcile his ideal with the reality of his self-image. Anna’s rejection of Bazarov is lethal in the sense that it strikes a deadly blow to his whole concept of his own rational and scientific “superhuman” qualities. Bazarov is not meant to live, and the only tragedy about his death is the agony in which his parents have to deal with.

  7. Kelsey says:

    I think the novel paints Barazov as much more of a loser than it choses to to label his ideas as victims. As the novel progresses it is clear that Barazov, though a magnetic and charming character, does not represent a viable life philosophy through either his words or his deeds. He wants to reject everything, every institution, tradition, principle, and value of the older generation, but can’t, in the face of his own love for Odintsova. The novel ultimately suggests, as Vanda and others pointed out, that love overcomes ideological obstacles. Barazov’s problem is that nilhism is not really an ideal- he doesn’t want anything, he does not seek anything constructive. To me, Barazov used his smoke screen of blunt exposition of nilhist ideas to essentially claim “I don’t like the rules, so they don’t apply to me.” Thus he insults his hosts, abuses his friend, rejects the love of his parents, and kisses Fenitchka. He has chosen a destructive and disorderly idealism, that doesn’t support any sort of happy or even organized lifestyle. Instead of abandoning his ideals and recognize the important role of love in humans’ lives, he chooses to die. Ok, maybe not chooses, but it’s a great turn of plot. Thankfully, Arkady, over the course of the novel, recognizes the value of love, relationships, and order, and abandons his nihilist ideas to lead a happy and productive life. If there is an unquestionable victim in this book, it is Barazov’s ideals. They prove unworkable, failing in both Arkady’s and Barazov’s cases. Barazov himself is to be pitied for his stubbornness.

  8. Flora Weeks says:

    I have to agree that Bazarov is the biggest clear loser in the story. Though I think this is evident in more than just his death. Long before his death he starts to fall out of favor wit most of the people around him. His faults start to become evident the first time he returns home, in how he treats his parents, and leaves so abruptly. He then starts to fight with Arkady a little more, which means that for the first time he doesn’t have a loyal follower. But then, as soon as he kisses Fenitchka, it is clear that he has made a much larger mistake, one that he will actually have to pay for this time. And so it is not just that he dies in the end of the novel, but that he dies with no real friends, or even respect.

    I would argue that Pavel also ends the book a loser. He does not drop as far or as precipitously as Bazarov, but the scenes surrounding the duel show his real weakness. While he continues to live with his brother for most of the rest of the book, he must feel slightly ashamed for what has happened, in the duel and with his feelings for Fenitchka. He eventually does leave, to live a life abroad where his previous faults are unknown, and even there he is seen as “rather a bore.” Not exactly what I would call a winner.

    On the other hand, it is not just his marriage that proves that Arkady is a winner in this story. Throughout the entire story his status only improves. He gains confidence and independence. He finds someone he loves and who loves him, and sticks with her even when there is potential to ditch her for the “better” sister. And he stays on good terms with his father, even choosing to take over the farm.

  9. Bryanna Kleber says:

    I think most of the characters in this novel go through a point off loss, but most come out relatively unscathed and go on to live a happy life.
    Arkady originally is a “loser” because he his just short of being brainwashed by Bazarov. This causes him to enjoy life far less than he did before. He changes his lifestyle to try and win Bazarov’s approval. Most significantly, he alters his relationship with his father to please Bazarov. This is upsetting to both Arkady and Nikolai. Throughout the novel, however, Arkady slowly realizes the flaws in Bazarov and is able to pull out of that lifestyle. He regains his respect for his father and marries happily to Katya.
    Nikolai’s life seems sad at the beginning because the arrival of his son is not how he expected it to be. Nikolai finds Arkady much changed and struggles to accept and understand this new lifestyle. Nikolai tries his best to try and do things that his son would approve of, but he just can’t seem to fully commit. This causes him great trouble because he wants his son’s approval, yet his beliefs are fighting the opposite way. Nikolai’s situation ends up nicely because his son has come back to his senses and has taken over the farm and respects Nikolai, and Nikolai marries happily.
    Pavel ends up better off than the beginning of the novel as well. We first saw Pavel as a man who had entered a sort of everlasting depression. His hate for Bazarov basically stirred up some strong emotions inside and allowed him to become passionate about something (hating Bazarov) and live again. Through actions prompted by this hate, he was able to catalyze the happiness of Nikolai by giving his blessing in his marriage. I would say that his story ends happy because he becomes a high-society man and seems to be in good relations with Nikolai and Arkady.
    I think that Bazarov is a loser in the novel because his actions and being basically caused every other character (except his parents) an ending of happiness. This is probably not something he would have wanted to cause, so he died in vain.
    Unfortunately, the people who were so tolerating and accommodating of Bazarov’s lifestyle, his parents, are the people who really suffer. From the moment we first meet his parents to the final scene, his parent’s lives are pitiful. They want nothing but time and acknowledgement from their son, and he constantly denies them. They do everything as to not upset him, but all their efforts appear futile. Although Bazarov tells Arkady that his parents did a great deal for him, he would never say that to them, even though that would mean the world to them. In the end, they are dealt the worst hand because Bazarov dies and they are just completely heartbroken.

  10. Romany Redman says:

    Death is the perfect ending for Bazarov. By his book, he won. (I agree to Brandt) How else could he both maintain self-respect yet acknowledge purpose, humanity, love, emotion, you name it, acknowledge something that validates his existence beyond a bag o’ molecules? Our hero of nihilism died a non-heroic death. How perfect is that?
    Arkady relinquishes his half held hopes of nihilism and finds that medium, where he no longer blames himself for minor hypocrisies or pities himself for his philosophies. Very fittingly, this transformation occurred through relationships with other people, the ultimate wack to nihilism. Relationships, Arkady found, are meaningful. Human interaction is more than the sum of its individual parts. Scientific method still falls short of accounting for the intricacies of love and friendship.
    I think a message from Fathers and Sons is “in praise of imperfection”, reaching the nirvana of knowing one knows nothing, that ambiguities exist between philosophies and life, but somewhere therein lies truth.

  11. Vanda Gaidamovic says:

    I would dare to disagree that winners and losers emerge as the story evolves. Even more so, I do not perceive Bazarov’s death as his eventual defeat. He is to certain extent a victim of the time and place he is born into. Being a déclassé, he lacks connection with either the people or ‘obsolete-minded’ aristocrats. His detachment and alienation from the surrounding world results in a tormenting emptiness that he compensates with the self-conviction that he requires nothing. “[…] It turns out there’s empty space in my suitcase and I’m stuffing hay into it. That’s just how it is in the suitcase of our lives; it doesn’t matter what you stuff in, as long as there’s no empty space.” His nihilism provides him with that “baggage”. Yet in his deathbed, he embraces his own human nature, acknowledges the power of love and seems more alive to me than ever before in the book. Thus, if I must point out the victors in the novel, I would name the universal and eternal forces, like love or nature. Love, in all its forms and disguises, either romantic, or parental, transcends all the generational or ideological conflicts between fathers and children, men and women, or friends. Hence, the ‘losers’ in the story are the ones who refuse to submit to its dictum (‘early’ Bazarov and, perhaps, Odintsova, too). The closing words of the narrator celebrate the victory of natural and everlasting over alien and passing, of love, time and life cycle over science, political convictions or rebellion: “Can it really be that love, sacred, devoted love is not all-powerful? Oh, no! However passionate, sinful, rebellious the heart buried in this grave, the flowers growing on it look out at us serenely with their innocent eyes; they tell us not only of that eternal peace, that great peace of “indifferent” nature; they tell us also of eternal reconciliation and life everlasting…”
    (This what also makes Turgenev a very Russian writer, I believe.)

  12. Brandt Silver-Korn says:

    I just realized I called him Bazalov the entire post. My mistake.

  13. Anna Mackey says:

    Bazarov is to me the clear loser in the story. He dies heavy with unrequited love, unfulfilled dreams, and no real lasting impression. It’s true he was cog in the advancement of the other character’s lives, but he ultimately dies a stepping-stone, not even worthy of a toast after his death. Arkady, his supposed disciple, moves beyond Bazarov’s influence and begins to think for himself, finally coming into his own and opening his heart to love and subsequent happiness, as we are lead to believe. Arkady was only able to reach this state by growing up and setting off without Bazarov, severing the cord that he previously relied on. Meanwhile, Bazarov returns home after discovering that those once so enchanted with him have moved on. He ironically becomes much like his father, living in the same house and assisting him in his practice. Bazarov grows even the more pitiful as we see him talking to the peasants, his once compelling and evocative words lost on those they should most affect.

    But perhaps his untimely death does hold some meaning for Bazarov. For a story so obsessed with youth, Bazarov will be forever young. Though it was an unglamorous death, we will never see Bazarov growing old and potentially living out his entire life unfulfilled. Perhaps with a young death, it leaves open the possibilities of what could have happened, what influence he could have had, and what actions or changes he could have made. But to me, Bazarov remains like the late Obinstov’s statue of Silence – once a goddess, now damaged and forgotten.

  14. Ben Kingstone says:

    I agree with Rouan that Bazarov’s death appears to be a tragedy at the end of the book. We might consider his failure a poignant gesture by Turgenev: the author kills him because he disagrees with nihilism or unnecessary disrespect to authority. Bazarov’s death demonstrates his own inability to maintain his idealistic disregard for nature. He praises science as the only real subject. Yet he falls uncontrollably in love. When his love fails, he returns home. It is highly ironic, then, that his inability to combat typhus–a failure of his capacity as a scientist and doctor–kills him. His carelessness to recognize the power of nature in something as simple as a virus results in his death. In this case, Turgenev rights a cautionary conclusion. In more abstract terms, Bazarov dies from an inability to appreciate the harmful complexities of science. He could not simultaneously hold two ideas–love and ration–and died trying to live an impossible dream. Turgenev may punish him for his sins. We might assume, however, that Bazarov would have become a great revolutionary, or at least a capable country doctor, had he lived.

  15. Brandt Silver-Korn says:

    I see everyone in this novel as a winner (almost).

    Arkady slowly loses his infatuation with Bazalov, finding it “dull under the same roof ” as him and ultimately rejects Bazalov’s nihilism, which Bazalov rightly concludes, was never really for Arkady. Arkady finds satisfaction and happiness from the more romantic aspects of life: love, nature, music, each of which he will be able to enjoy with his marriage to Katya. He is successful with a career (“running the estate”) which also indicates that fathers and son can work together, as a successful farm is one of Nikolai’s foremost goals. In turn, Nikolai is in a good relationship with his son, married and certainly happy, so he can also be deemed a winner of the novel too.

    Pavel is also a winner. He learned to be more accepting through his acceptance and encouragement of Nikolai’s marriage. That being said he retains his aristocratic sense that he deems important and is seen at the end of the novel as “a perfect gentleman” which would probably the greatest compliment you could give him. This is what gives him happiness. But it can also be said that a good relationship with his brother gives him happiness (more important than traditional beliefs).

    I disagree with Rouan. I get the impression the Bazalov is in fact a winner (if you accept his nihilist position until the grave, which I do). In nihilism I think it would be praised to have an overgrown grave which is seldom visited (indicating that you have been more or less forgotten). Even though one could argue that Bazalov was suppressing tendencies that don’t correlate with nihilism, he more or less fights for his beliefs until the end, so his death, while unfortunate and possibly him as a loser, is ultimately fitting, and is what would provide happiness for him.

    Bazalov’s parents are NOT winners for obvious reasons. They never really understood their son and they will grieve for the rest of their lives. This was the less focused on Father/Son relationship, and I think Turgenev’s point was to illustrate a failed relationship in contrast to the Kirsanovs’ successful one.

    Also, I do not think Anna is a winner, because although she is married, lives with order (which gives her happiness) and lives in “harmony” she still is not in love. I see that as a loss.

  16. Alexandra Siega says:

    As Rouan points out, Bazarov is the one character at the end of Fathers and Children that ends up with the worst fate: death. Given that the other characters are packaged off nicely in marriages and happy bachelorhoods, I clearly should feel pity for the revolutionary who had an untimely (and rather dull) death, but honestly: he had it coming. I cannot label him as the “loser” or the “victim” because he had a hand in his own fate, and he was fully aware of the destructive choices that he was making in his attempt to embrace the nihilist ideal. I cannot not feel pity for the man who died from typhoid after willingly performed a dissection on a typhoid-stricken corpse just to satisfy his curiosity. Furthermore, his actions on his deathbed proved that he was a hypocrite. His final speech with his beloved Anna was one of the sentimentalism that he debased so often throughout the text, and it revealed that Bazarov was suppressing his true nature to become a nihilist.

    Though I feel no pity for the “victim”, I do respect Bazarov a great deal, despite what the curtness of the previous paragraph may suggest. He managed to impact the lives of the characters in a constructive way, and without them, their neat, happy endings would not have occurred. In this way, he is a revolutionary; though he is not transforming Russia, he is positively transforming the lives of the people around him. Often the transformation does not occur as a result of Bazarov’s actions, but rather inaction. He went storming into the lives of Arkady, Anna, and many others, and became either an ideological guide or a man of constant contention: both led to the characters’ reevaluation of themselves. However, with the exception of Pavel, it wasn’t until after Bazarov’s death that each of the characters could find their happiness, suggesting that though Bazarov was a catalyst for these positive shifts, his presence still had a negative effect on those around him.

  17. Rouan Yao says:

    It is quite evident that out of all the characters, Bazarov is the one who ends badly. Despite imperfect and varying actions of the other characters, they all seem to find happiness in their own way. Arkady abandons his nihilist tendencies to marry Katya for love, and manages to find happiness there. Odintsova marries for convenience, and still manages to find happiness, growing to love her husband. Even the older generation ends up happily – Pavel establishes himself in high society in Dresden and Nikolai’s growing problems on the farm eventually settle down, and he marries Fenichka. However, the young and radical Bazarov dies – not by any glamorous means, but through a cut on his finger which gave him typhoid. In the end, although to greater epiphany is discovered and no radical shift in human values has occurred, everybody becomes content with his or her life.
    Turgenev might be writing this to stress the tragedy of his protagonist. However, I also find that Turgenev may be writing with a message of warning. The main flaw in Bazarov’s character is mainly his unbendable stubbornness, which forces him to deny most of his natural inclinations for a philosophy which he believes to be right. Even as though his body and soul was craving love, he did not consciously allow himself to seek out women. As he lay dying, he asks Odintsova to forget all about him as soon as he dies. When he finally died, life went on as usual and the people who knew him found happiness on their own. Somehow, I feel that Bazarov did not have this in mind when he envisioned his own legacy.

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