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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons


by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Chapter 21 Summary

  • When Arkady gets out of bed in the morning, he sees Vassily Ivanych dressed in a Turkish-dressing gown and digging away in the garden.
  • They say good morning to one another, and Vassily Ivanych announces that he is making a bed for some turnips. He says, "The time has come now – and thank God for it! – when each one of us must secure his sustenance by the work of his own hands; it is no use relying on others – one must labour oneself" (21.3).
  • Vassily Ivanych tells Arkady that he has already offered medical help to several local peasants that day. He invites Arkady to have some fresh air before going in to tea.
  • Inside, Vassily Ivanych again apologizes for such humble lodgings. Arkady protests that there is no reason to apologize.
  • Vassily Ivanych tells him that he knows a few things, that he's something of a psychologist and a physiognomist. He thinks that if were not adventuresome, he would have come to grief long ago.
  • Vassily Ivanych tells Arkady that he is delighted with his friendship with Bazarov. He asks how long they've known one another, and Arkady says it's been since the last winter.
  • As a father, then, Vassily Ivanych wants to know Arkady's opinion of Bazarov.
  • Arkady tells him, "Your son is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met" (21.10).
  • Vassily Ivanych is thrilled. He has a smile of rapture on his face as Arkady proceeds to speak of Bazarov with complete enthusiasm. When Arkady finishes, he bends down and kisses his shoulder.
  • Vassily Ivanych admits that he absolutely worships his son. He says that there are certain things about his behavior that would be hard to tolerate in some people, but Bazarov is such a great man that he cannot be judged by ordinary standards.
  • Arkady agrees and says, "He's a sincere, single-minded man" (21.20).
  • Vassily Ivanych says his only ambition is to stay out of Bazarov's way and do everything he can to enable his education. He asks Arkady what he thinks Bazarov will do.
  • Arkady says that he'll be a leader in the field of medicine, but surely he'll do something great outside of that.
  • He tells him that he is "bound to be famous" (21.26).
  • The servant Anfisushka appears and announces that it is time for tea.
  • As they are heading in, Vassily Ivanych wonders why Bazarov is not back from his morning walk. Just then, Bazarov appears. Vassily Ivanych announces that he's already had a long conversation with Arkady.
  • He tells him that there is a peasant who's suffering from icterus (yellow skin associated with jaundice), and he'll need his advice later.
  • Vassily Ivanych jumps up and begins singing some lines from a French opera.
  • Bazarov observes that he has "Astonishing vitality" (21.38).
  • Noon comes and Arkady and Bazarov are lying together on the grass in the shadow of a haystack.
  • Pointing to a nearby poplar tree, Bazarov says that when he was a boy he used to think that the tree was some sort of good-luck charm. He could never feel time weighing on him when he was near it.
  • He says, "I did not understand then that the reason time did not hang heavy was because I was a young boy. Well, now I'm grown up, the talisman no longer works" (21.40).
  • Arkady asks how long they lived here, and Bazarov says it was only for a couple years. They traveled a great deal when he was a young.
  • Bazarov tells Arkady that the house was built by his grandfather, who was some sort of army major.
  • Arkady tells Bazarov that he likes his home. It is "cosy and old-fashioned" (21.47).
  • Bazarov says that it's just "a smell of lamp oil and clover" (21.48).
  • Arkady asks if his parents were strict with him as a child, and Bazarov says of course not. He admits that he is fond of his parents, and Arkady says that they absolutely adore him.
  • After a pause, Bazarov says he's amazed at what a happy life his parents lead. They always have something to do, and they enjoy their life on the manor.
  • Speaking of himself in contrast, Bazarov says, "While I think: here I lie under a haystack... The tiny bit of space I occupy is so minute in comparison with the rest of the universe, where I am not and which is not concerned with me; and the period of time in which it is my lot to live is so infinitesimal compared with the eternity in which I have not been and shall not be... And yet here, in this atom which is myself, in this mathematical point, blood circulates, the brain operates and aspires to something too... What a monstrous business! What futility!" (21.58).
  • Arkady points out that this applies to everyone, but Bazarov says that most people are not so preoccupied with their own insignificance.
  • Bazarov is frustrated that Arkady doesn't understand that he is alluding to his failed relationship with Madame Odintsov. He thinks Arkady's view of love is simple and typical.
  • Watching an ant carry off a half-dead fly, Bazarov cheers him on, "Never mind her resistance: avail yourself of your animal right to feel no compassion – not like us poor self-destructive brethren!" (21.64).
  • Bazarov says that the only thing he is proud of is that he has not yet destroyed himself, that he hasn't let a female conquer him.
  • They sit in silence.
  • Bazarov says that men are strange. Watching his parents, you'd think that they couldn't ask for anything more. But he says the problem is that "you die of boredom. One needs people, even if it's only to have someone to swear at" (21.69).
  • Arkady thinks that one can live one's life so that everything is significant. Bazarov says it's even possible to tolerate the insignificant, but that petty troubles are what are really unbearable.
  • Arkady says, "Petty troubles don't exist for the man who refuses to recognize them as such" (21.72).
  • Bazarov says that he has simply taken a platitude (a trite truthful saying) and turned it upside down. It amounts to the same thing.
  • Arkady asks him which side the truth lies on, and Bazarov says, "Like an echo I answer 'Where? Where?'" (21.77).
  • Arkady remarks that he is in a melancholy mood, and suggests that they have a nap.
  • Bazarov tells Arkady not to look at him in his sleep because everyone looks foolish when they sleep.
  • When Arkady remarks that he isn't one to care, Bazarov agrees that a proper man ought not to care. He says that the proper man is either "obeyed or detested" (21.83).
  • Arkady says that he doesn't detest anyone, and Bazarov says that's because he is "a soft-hearted mawkish individual" (21.85). He claims Arkady has no confidence in himself.
  • Arkady interrupts him and asks if Bazarov really has such high confidence in himself.
  • Bazarov says, "When I meet a man who can hold his own with me, then I'll change my opinion of myself" (21.88). He goes on to say that he has begun to detest the poor peasants who he is supposed to make sacrifices for, but who only cheat him and offer no thanks.
  • Arkady says, "Stop it, Yevgeny...to hear you today, one can't help agreeing with those who reproach us for having no principles" (21.89).
  • Bazarov thinks that Arkady is beginning to talk like his uncle. He says that principles don't exist, that all that really exists are feelings, "deeper than that men will never penetrate" (21.92).
  • Arkady is shocked by Bazarov's cynicism, and Bazarov misquotes Pushkin and suggests they go to sleep.
  • Arkady points out that the quote is not from Pushkin.
  • Bazarov goes on by claiming that Pushkin must have been in the army since he was always calling everyone "To arms!"
  • Arkady says that he is simply inventing things, that it's calumny (slander).
  • Bazarov retorts, "Slander a man as much as we like, and he will still deserve twenty times worse in reality" (21.102).
  • Arkady says that they'd better take their nap. Yet neither can sleep; they both had a feeling of something akin to hostility.
  • Arkady says, "Look, a withered maple leaf has come off and is fluttering to the ground: its movements are exactly like a butterfly in flight. Isn't it strange that something so mournful and dead should be like a creature so gay and full of life?" (21.105).
  • Bazarov implores him not to use fancy talk. Arkady thinks that he is tyrannous, that there's no reason not to express a fine idea.
  • Bazarov says that he should be able to say what he thinks, and he thinks Arkady's speech is indecent. Arkady retorts by asking if abusing people is decent.
  • Bazarov says "that idiot" Uncle Pavel would be thrilled if he heard Arkady right now (21.110).
  • Arkady says that Bazarov is being intolerable.
  • Bazarov says that people always cling to family feeling until the bitter end. Arkady says that he spoke out of a sense of justice, not family feeling. Since Bazarov lacks a sense of justice, he wouldn't know what that is.
  • Bazarov sarcastically wonders if Arkady has become too advanced for his understanding. Arkady begs him to stop and says that they are going to quarrel if they continue. Bazarov thinks that they might as well.
  • When Arkady says he's worried they'll finish by... Bazarov breaks in and says "tearing one another to pieces" (21.120).
  • Bazarov stretches out his fingers toward Arkady's neck. Arkady jokingly moves to defend himself, "But the look on his friend's face was so sinister – there seemed to be such real menace in the smile that distorted his lips and in his glinting eyes that he instinctively quailed" (21.121).
  • At that moment, Vassily Ivanych comes out and sees them lying by the haystack. He cheerfully says that lying on the earth and looking up at the heavens is a worthy occupation.
  • Bazarov growls "I only gaze up to heaven when I want to sneeze," and to Arkady, "A pity he interrupted us" (21.123).
  • Arkady tells him to shut up and squeezes his hand, "but no friendship can bear such strain for long" (21.124).
  • Vassily Ivanych says that when he looks down at the two young men and thinks of their physical strength, it reminds him of "Castor and Pollux" (the twins of Leda and Zeus, one of whom was mortal, the other immortal) (21.125).
  • Bazarov tells his father to stop referencing mythology, to stop being so sentimental.
  • Vassily says that he's just come to tell them that dinner is ready. He warns Bazarov that his mother insisted on having Father Alexei come say Thanksgiving Mass and then have dinner with them.
  • Bazarov jokes that he will sit with anyone at table so long as they don't eat his food.
  • What Vassily doesn't tell Bazarov is that he was the one who invited Father Alexei. Yet he tells Bazarov that they'll like one another, that Alexei plays a good game of whist (a trick-taking card game) and occasionally even smokes a pipe.
  • Father and son joke about the old days when Vassily Ivanych used to play cards regularly. Vassily Ivanych sits down with the young men in the sun.
  • He begins to tell them of how sitting in the shade of the haystack reminds him of his days in the army. He says that he'll tell them about his experience at "the plague in Bessarabia" (21.144).
  • He tells Arkady about it, but when he looks down at the end of his story, he sees that his son is asleep.
  • He wakes him and they all go in for dinner.
  • Father Alexei is extremely well-behaved at dinner. He understands that the young men don't desire his blessing or approval, and he manages to crack jokes about religion at the same time that he stands up for it.
  • Arina Vlassyevna dotes on her son throughout dinner. Her eyes "expressed more than tenderness and devotion: there was sadness in them too, mingled with curiosity and awe, and a sort of humble reproach" (21.147).
  • Bazarov plays whist with Father Alexei, who beats him and jokes that he is playing too rashly, in the manner of Napoleon. Bazarov becomes morose and merely shrugs his shoulders in response.
  • When Bazarov and Arkady are alone, Bazarov announces that he must leave. He says that he is bored, he has no place to work, and when he goes to speak with his mother, he finds that he has nothing to say.
  • Arkady points out that they will be upset, but Bazarov says he will stop back again on his way to Petersburg.
  • Arkady says that Bazarov is too harsh on his mother, "she's very clever really" (21.164).
  • Bazarov says, "If a woman can keep up a conversation for half an hour, it's already a good sign. But I'm going all the same" (21.167).
  • Bazarov admits that it will be hard leaving. He mentions that his father flogged one of the peasants the other day. When Arkady looks shocked, Bazarov says that the peasant deserved it.
  • Almost the whole day passes before Bazarov works up the nerve to announce that he is leaving. When he does, Vassily Ivanych almost falters. Bazarov tells him that he will come back soon, but Vassily Ivanych persists "Three days... after three years... it's rather little; rather little, Yevgeny" (21.179).
  • Vassily Ivanych mentions that Bazarov's mother has just set flowers in his room to brighten it up. He doesn't tell him that he has been paying the servant Timofeich each day to go buy little things to make Bazarov's stay more comfortable.
  • Vassily Ivanych says, "Freedom's the important thing. That has always been my principle... one must not get in the way... not..." (21.181).
  • He goes back to his room and begins to pray quietly so as not to wake his wife. She wakes up anyway and says that perhaps they can pull out another bed for Bazarov because she is worried that the one he is currently sleeping on is uncomfortable. Vassily Ivanych cannot bear to tell his wife that their son is leaving in the morning.
  • Bazarov and Arkady leave the next day. The house is gloomy and depressed, though his parents do their best to keep it together. Arina Vlassyevna can't help but weep a bit alone, and, as soon as the two men are gone, Vassily Ivanych slumps and lets his head drop onto his chest.
  • He says, "He has gone, left us. Gone, because he found it dull here with us. I'm a lonely man now, lonely as this finger" (21.190). He separates his forefinger from the rest of his hand.
  • Arina Vlassyevna comes and comforts him. She says that it cannot be helped because Bazarov is an independent person. She says that it's only she that will be with him forever.
  • Then "Vassily Ivanych took his hands from his face and clasped his wife, his friend, more warmly than he had ever done before, even in their youth: she had consoled him in his grief" (21.191).

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