Fathers and Sons
by Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons Chapter 20 Summary
- As soon as the carriage stops, Bazarov's father begins embracing his son. Then his mother comes running out the front door and collapses into his arms. She is sobbing convulsively.
- Old Bazarov is embarrassed and tells his wife to tone it down.
- She says no matter, that it's been too long since she saw Yevgeny, and she again falls on his neck.
- Old Bazarov (Vassily Ivanych) asks Arkady to excuse his wife's behavior. It is clear, however, that he is having trouble controlling his own emotions.
- Inside, Bazarov formally introduces his parents, though his mother is still emotional. Vassily Ivanych asks their servant, Tanya, to bring his wife a glass of water. He invites Bazarov and Arkady into his study.
- Bazarov's mother (Arina) falls on him one last time and comments on how handsome he's grown. Vassily Ivanych agrees that his son now looks like a man.
- He then tells his wife to prepare the men dinner since "a hungry belly has no ears" (20.17). He leads the young men into his study.
- The entire house consists of six rooms, one of which is the study. Vassily Ivanych apologizes for their humble quarters, but Bazarov tells him there's no need to apologize to Arkady.
- Vassily Ivanych announces that they've put a new wing on next to the bath-house.
- When Vassily Ivanych leaves with the servant Timofeich to make sure all is in order, Bazarov says "There you have him! A comical old chap with a heart of gold. Just as queer a fish as your father, only in a different way. Never stops talking" (20.29).
- The two of them discuss how kind Bazarov's family is. Timofeich comes in and announces that they don't have beef because they didn't realize they'd be having guests.
- Bazarov says that's not a problem, that "poverty, they say, is no crime" (20.33).
- Arkady asks how many serfs Bazarov's father has, and he announces that there are fifteen. Timofeich corrects him. The number is twenty-two.
- Vassily Ivanych reappears. He tells Arkady that his valet will show him to his room. He asks if Arkady smokes, but when Arkady requests a cigar, he says they are hard to come across in these parts.
- Bazarov butts in, "There, that's enough of that poor-man stuff" (20.41).
- Vassily Ivanych sits down and laughs. He says that he's not trying to excite Arkady's sympathy. No, he says, "for a thinking man there is no such thing as a wilderness" (20.43).
- Vassily Ivanych admits that he's probably not up to date, but that he does all he can to keep up with the times. He has put his peasants on the rent system, but he is more concerned with the sciences and education.
- He points to a plaster head divided into numbered squares and tells Arkady that he is even studying phrenology (an early brain science that thought the brain had specialized compartments and that one could see the various sizes of them by examining the bumps on a person's skull).
- When Vassily Ivanych mentions a dated scientist named Rademacher, Bazarov pokes fun at him for still reading that which has passed.
- Vassily Ivanych calmly says there is no way he can keep up with them from out in the country. He tells him that the people they read with such devotion will, in twenty years, be just as dated as Rademacher.
- Bazarov says, "Let me tell you by way of consolation that nowadays we laugh at medicine in general, and worship no one" (20.50).
- Vassily Ivanych asks how that is possible since his son intends to become a doctor, and Bazarov says that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
- Vassily Ivanych says that he can't say much, that he's nothing but a retired army doctor who has taken up farming. He does say, however, that he got to meet many important people, including Prince Wittgenstein.
- By contrast, Vassily Ivanych says that Arkady's grandfather was a fine man, a real soldier.
- Bazarov says, "Confess now, he was a real old dunderhead" (20.55).
- Vassily Ivanych wonders how his son can say such things, but Bazarov changes the subject. He asks about the copse of birch trees outside.
- Vassily Ivanych begins to speak proudly of the different kinds of trees he is growing. He says that he has also been growing medicinal herbs. Even though he is retired, people are constantly coming to him for advice.
- Vassily Ivanych tells a story about a country doctor who went too late to see a patient. The patient was dead when he got there and he simply inquired if he had hiccupped much before he died. Vassily Ivanych is the only one to laugh at his story, though Arkady forces a smile.
- When the servant Tanya comes to announce that dinner is ready, Vassily Ivanych apologizes if he bored them. He promises that his wife will be better company.
- The dinner is pretty good even though it was prepared quickly. Arina dotes on her son throughout the meal, hardly paying any attention at all to Arkady. Vassily Ivanych paces about and discusses the policies of Napoleon III and the Italian question. After dinner, he goes and gets a half-bottle of champagne.
- When they bring out preserves, Bazarov simply lights a cigar. To be polite, Arkady tries all of them even though he can't stand sweet things.
- After dinner, Vassily takes them out to the garden and shows Arkady his favorite bench: "it is just the spot for a hermit like me" (20.64).
- He speaks romantically with various references to the classics and Bazarov merely yawns and announces that it is time for bed.
- After showing Arkady off to bed, Vassily goes to his son's room hoping to have a long chat. Bazarov dismisses him, saying that he is tired, although it will turn out that he doesn't sleep until morning. Instead he "stare[s] angrily into the darkness" (20.70).
- Arina, for her part, talks the ear off of one of her servants, Anfisushka. She is giddy because of her son's arrival, and when Vassily Ivanych tries to talk to her he gives it up as a bad job.
- The narrator embarks on a long description of Arina Vlassyevna. He describes her as a true Russian gentlewoman, devout and emotional and superstitious. She never speaks ill of anyone and loves her family dearly.
- He says, "Nowadays such women as she have ceased to exist. Heaven only knows whether this should be a matter for rejoicing!" (20.20).
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