When Arkady first introduces Bazarov at Maryino, he is a young man with a keen sense of his importance. He is convinced that one day he will be great, even if he isn't sure how or why. Though he wins his arguments with Pavel through cleverness, it seems clear that Pavel's position is more stable than his. One doubts that Bazarov understands just how unlivable his philosophy is. Even in his confidence, it is clear that he does not have one fixed goal – that is, until he meets Anna Sergeyevna.
Bazarov initially conceives of Anna Sergeyevna as an easy conquest. First at the hotel and then later at Nikolskoye, Bazarov quickly wins her favor. She enjoys arguing with him and invites him to take her out on walks. Yet, to Bazarov's dismay, she isn't exactly throwing herself at him. Instead, against his will, Bazarov begins to fall in love with Anna Sergeyevna. The young man who denounces romance has suddenly developed a sense of purpose that he never could have imagined. Though Bazarov is at odds with himself, up until he makes his declaration, it is clear that he is utterly infatuated with Anna Sergeyevna and that she has the ability to make him quite happy.
Bazarov has no intention of declaring his love to Anna Sergeyevna. As he thinks of it, she more or less pulls the declaration out of him by acting coy. Even as he confesses to his obsession with her, he is extremely frustrated with himself. He moves toward her right after he does, as if driven by this furious passion, and she is terrified. At this moment, things begin to slip away from Bazarov. Not only has he failed. He has failed at something in which he never thought he cared about success. His failure makes him call all of his previous priorities into question.
Love lost is one thing, but things begin to become mortally serious when Bazarov returns to Maryino. He seems to take Fenichka up as a replacement for Anna Sergeyevna, and he does his best to woo her. By doing so, however, he crosses an important family boundary, and Pavel thinks of it as pretext enough for a duel. Though Bazarov considers dueling ridiculous, he is driven by his pride and his passions (which he also considers ridiculous) to accept. At this point, it is clear that Bazarov has completely lost control of his own situation. It's almost as if his despair has crystallized into a death wish.
When Bazarov returns to his parents' home, his father quickly notices that something important has changed. His son is more docile, but Vassily Ivanych worries that the reason is because his spirit has been broken. Bazarov appears listless, more at a loss for a sense of purpose than ever. When he accidentally contracts typhus by helping some local doctors to open up a body in town, he seems almost indifferent to his own fate. Whereas Vassily Ivanych is overwhelmed by grief, Bazarov quietly sets about preparing himself for death.