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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons


by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Chapter 5 Summary

  • Bazarov rises early and goes wandering about on Nikolai's estate. He's unimpressed.
  • After Nikolai divided up his land with his peasants, he had to set up a manor house on nine acres of flat and barren land. His ponds aren't doing well, and most of the trees that he planted didn't take; his wells taste brackish.
  • Bazarov inspects the estate and then gather together some young boys to take him looking for frogs in the swamp.
  • As they walk over, Bazarov explains to the boys that he wants to dissect the frogs in order to see what goes on inside them. He tells them that he is a doctor, and that the inside of a frog is not so different from the inside of a human.
  • One boy thinks this idea is funny, whereas the other, Vasska, says that frogs scare him.
  • The three of them head out into the water looking for frogs.
  • Nikolai and Arkady rise and go to the terrace to have breakfast. A little girl comes out and tells them that Fenichka is not feeling well today. Nikolai says that's fine and begins to pour out the tea for him and his son.
  • After a moment, Arkady works up the courage to ask his father if it's because he is there that Fenichka refuses to come pour out the tea.
  • Nikolai turns slightly away. He admits that she may feel a bit ashamed.
  • Arkady makes a speech saying that he in no way disapproves of their relationship, that he is not one to sit in judgment of his father. He realizes he is giving something like a lecture, but the sound of his own voice makes him feel strong.
  • Nikolai feels awkward talking about it, and Arkady, in a burst of good will, decides that if she will not come out, he will go to her.
  • When he leaves, Nikolai collapses in his chair. He is confused and wonders if his son will think of this as a sign of weakness in his father.
  • Arkady returns and announces that they have introduced themselves. He chides (to scold, but less severely) his father for not telling him that he has a baby brother.
  • As they embrace, Pavel comes up behind them. He jokes that they are always embracing since Arkady is back, and says that he wouldn't mind giving him a hug himself.
  • Pavel, as usual, is impeccably dressed. He inquires after Bazarov, and Arkady tells him that he has gotten up early and gone wondering. He says that he hates ceremony (to have other people wait on him).
  • Pavel says that this is obvious.
  • Arkady tells his uncle that Bazarov's father lives nearby, and Pavel suddenly remembers that there was a surgeon called Bazarov in their father's division.
  • Pavel asks exactly what the young Bazarov is.
  • Arkady, as if triumphantly, announces "He is a nihilist!" (5.50).
  • Nikolai doesn't know exactly what this is. He thinks of its Latin root and guesses that it is a man who recognizes nothing.
  • Pavel clarifies that it is a man who "respects nothing" (5.54).
  • Arkady disagrees. He says it is a man who looks at everything critically, a "person who does not take any principle for granted, however much that principle may be revered" (5.57).
  • Pavel asks if this is a good thing. Arkady says it is good in some cases, but bad in others.
  • Pavel tells him that this is not something the older generation agrees with. He says, "without principles taken as you say on trust one cannot move an inch or draw a single breath" (5.60).
  • He goes on to say, "It used to be Hegelians, and now there are nihilists. We shall see how you exist in a void, in an airless vacuum" (5.62).
  • At Pavel's request, Nikolai rings the bell and calls for cocoa. To his surprise, Fenichka appears.
  • When she puts the cocoa on the table, she becomes embarrassed; "she looked as if she were ashamed to have come in, yet at the same time somehow felt that she had a right to come" (5.63).
  • Pavel looks displeased, and, after greeting everyone, she departs.
  • When Pavel sees Bazarov coming up to the terrace, spattered with mud and carrying a sack of wiggling frogs, he says, "Here is Monsieur Nihilist about to give us the pleasure of his company" (5.67).
  • Pavel asks Bazarov what he's going to do with the frogs, and Bazarov tells him that they are for experiments.
  • As Bazarov walks off, Pavel says, "He has no faith in principles, only in frogs" (5.73).
  • Realizing his joke has fallen flat, Pavel begins talking about the management of the farm. In particular, he complains about a farm-hand named Foma who has been shirking (avoiding) his duty lately. He thinks that, with time, he'll shake off his stupid ways.

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