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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons


by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Chapter 10 Summary

  • A fortnight (two weeks) passes. Arkady slips into a life of leisure and Bazarov works. People have gotten used to him.
  • One night, Fenichka even calls on him to help with the baby, and he stays up with them for several hours. Pavel, by contrast, detests Bazarov. He thinks him "a cynic and a vulgarian" (10.1).
  • Nikolai is skeptical of Bazarov and worries about his influence over Arkady, but he is tolerant and assists him with his experiments.
  • The servants like Bazarov very much, even when he makes fun of them. Dunyasha is always flirting with him, and Piotr brightens up when he walks by.
  • Prokofyich, like Pavel, detests him, calling him a "butcher" and a "humbug" (10.1).
  • It is the best time of the year, June. Bazarov has begun rising early to gather grasses and insects, and will often take Arkady with him.
  • They usually argue and Arkady loses, "although he was more eloquent than his companion" (10.2).
  • One morning, Nikolai is coming out to meet them when he overhears Arkady defending him. He keeps quiet.
  • Bazarov says that Nikolai is a good man, "but he's old-fashioned, he's had his day" (10.6).
  • Nikolai strains his ears for Arkady's reply, but there is none. He begins walking back to the house.
  • Bazarov continues that he has seen Nikolai reading Pushkin, which he thinks is a bunch of romantic rubbish. He suggests Nikolai give him Büchner's Stoff und Kraft instead (Büchner was a German materialist philosopher).
  • Arkady agrees with him, and thinks it will be good for his father because it is written in popular language.
  • Nikolai finds his brother in the study after dinner and tells him that they have become old-fashioned. Nikolai thinks Bazarov may be right, but he is sad because he wants to become friendly with Arkady, "but it turns out that I have been left standing while he has forged ahead, and now we cannot understand one another" (10.13).
  • Pavel says it's all Bazarov's influence, that he thinks he's not even much of a doctor. Nikolai says he must admit that Bazarov is clever and very well-educated.
  • Pavel goes on, "his conceit is quite revolting" (10.16).
  • Nikolai thinks perhaps "one cannot succeed without conceit" (10.17). What he doesn't understand, he says, is that he does everything he can to stay up to date with the times and to treat his peasants well. He doesn't know how he has still been left in the dust.
  • Pavel asks why he would think that, and he tells him that Arkady came up to him while he was reading and replaced his copy of Pushkin's The Gypsies with a copy of Büchner.
  • Nikolai shows the book to Pavel, who is irritated that Arkady is trying to oversee his father's education. He asks him what he thinks of it.
  • Nikolai says, "Either I am stupid or it is all rubbish. I suppose I must be stupid" (10.27).
  • To change the subject, Nikolai tells him that their relative, Matvei Ilyich Kolyazin, wants to invite the two of them to his estate. They both decide not to go, and Pavel thinks that Kolyazin is just trying to show off.
  • With a sigh, Nikolai says, "It seems the time has come to order our coffins and cross our hands upon our breasts" (10.37).
  • Pavel says he will not give up so quickly. He predicts a skirmish with Bazarov in the near future.
  • When Pavel sits down to have tea with the group later that day, he is looking for a fight. When Bazarov refers to one of their neighbors as "a complete rotter, a third-rate aristocrat," Pavel seizes on the opportunity (10.40).
  • He guesses that Bazarov thinks that a "rotter" and an "aristocrat" are the same thing. For his part, he says that he admires the English aristocracy: "they demand the fulfillment of obligations due to them, and therefore they fulfill their own obligations to others" (10.43).
  • Bazarov asks what he's trying to prove.
  • Pavel continues, beginning with phthis (by mispronouncing the word, he is intentionally embracing his Russian background). He says that he wants to prove "without a sense of proper pride, without a sense of self-respect – and these feelings are highly developed in the aristocrat – there can be no firm foundation for the social... bien public... the social fabric" (10.45).
  • Bazarov retorts that whether or not Pavel respects himself, he'd sit there with his arms folded either way; what good does that do the public?
  • Pavel turns pale.
  • His point, he says, "that aristocratism is a principle, and only immoral or silly people can live in our age without principles" (10.48).
  • Nikolai agrees with his brother, while Bazarov exclaims that all this talk isn't worth a straw for the average Russian.
  • Pavel pushes him. He wants to know what they need, says that they must acknowledge their logical place in history.
  • Bazarov says that there is no reason for logic, that he bases his conduct only on what is useful. He says, "In these days the most useful thing we can do is to repudiate – and so we repudiate" (10.58).
  • Arkady agrees with him, and Pavel asks if he means everything. Bazarov says yes, he means everything.
  • Pavel is shocked. Arkady glows with satisfaction.
  • Nikolai meekly chirps in that it is all well to destroy everything, "But one must construct too, you know" (10.64).
  • Bazarov retorts that "The ground must be cleared first" (10.65).
  • Arkady says, "The present condition of the people requires it" (10.66). Bazarov doesn't quite agree with him, thinking Arkady is too taken in by philosophy and romanticism, but at this moment he sees no reason to contradict him.
  • Pavel exclaims that these two know nothing about the Russian people. He says, "They hold traditions sacred, they are a patriarchal people – they cannot live without faith" (10.68).
  • Bazarov thinks Pavel is right, but that this too proves nothing. He says that he's willing to go against his own people.
  • Pavel snaps, "No, you are no Russian after what you have just said! I must decline to recognize you as a Russian" (10.75).
  • With pride, Bazarov says that his grandfather tilled Russian soil. He says that Pavel doesn't even know how to talk to the peasants.
  • Pavel retorts, "While you talk to them and despise them at the same time" (10.77). Bazarov readily admits that this is true.
  • Pavel says that nihilists are useful, and Bazarov says that's not for them to say. He says that Pavel's not one to criticize since he considers himself quite an important person in the world.
  • Nikolai, worried things are getting out of control, begs them not to bring their personalities into the argument (attacking each other directly instead of just arguing about issues).
  • Pavel re-assures his brother that things are all right. Condescendingly, he addresses "Dr." Bazarov and tells him that his ideas are not new. He says, "The materialism you preach has gained currency more than once and has always proved bankrupt" (10.83).
  • Bazarov is beginning to lose his temper. He argues that the nihilists don't preach anything.
  • In an angry attempt to explain himself, he says that they realized how little work their talk was doing, how even the emancipation of the serfs had little effect since the serfs were happy enough to swindle themselves just to buy more gin at the liquor store.
  • The nihilists chose not to act, "to confine ourselves to abuse" (10.92).
  • Bazarov is suddenly frustrated with himself for having spoken so freely in front of members of the upper class.
  • Pavel presses the question of action. He asks how the nihilists can go on destroying everything without even knowing why.
  • Arkady says, "We destroy because we are a force [...] and therefore not accountable to anyone" (10.101, 103).
  • Pavel looks at his nephew and laughs.
  • Pavel erupts in anger at the two of them. He laughs at the idea of a force and says, "there are only four men and a half of you, whereas the others number millions who won't let you trample their most sacred beliefs underfoot – it is they who will crush you" (10.104).
  • Bazarov says they will have to wait and see. He quips, "A penny candle, you know, set Moscow on fire" (10.107).
  • Pavel says, "First an almost Satanic pride, then gibes – so that is what attracts the young, that is what wins the inexperienced hearts of boys!" (10.108)
  • Pavel mocks the artists who refuse to go into the Vatican and see Raphael, but have no imagination of their own. Bazarov says he agrees with them, but thinks they are no better than Raphael.
  • Pavel points out that in order to be educated young men used to have to work and study, "But now they need only say, 'Everything in the world is rubbish!' – and the trick's done" (10.110).
  • Bazarov snaps, "Your vaunted sense of your own dignity has let you down" (10.111). He says he will agree when Pavel names one social institution that is not worthy of repudiation.
  • Pavel names the Peasant Commune and then the family of peasants. With scathing condescension, Bazarov tells him that he should take some more time to think.
  • Arkady has turned red at Bazarov's insolence, but the two of them go to leave and dissect frogs.
  • Pavel is furious. Nikolai, with a sigh, thinks of a time when he said to his mother, "Of course, you cannot understand me: we belong to two different generations" (10.121). He thinks, "You see, now our turn has come, and our successors say to us, 'You are not of our generation: swallow your pill'" (10.121).
  • Pavel thinks he is far too modest, that they are much more in the right than these conceited young men.
  • Fenichka, hearing the argument has ended, comes out to serve them tea. Nikolai tells her to put the samovar (an ornate container for hot water) away. Pavel retires to his study.

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