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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons


by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Chapter 6 Summary

  • As Bazarov begins to drink his tea, he announces that he saw a bunch of snipe (wading birds) in the woods. He suggests that Arkady could bag them later since he doesn't shoot.
  • Pavel asks if Bazarov studies physics, and he clarifies that he studies natural science in general.
  • Pavel says that he has heard the Germans have been making great strides in the sciences, and Bazarov admits that they are the Russians' masters there.
  • Pavel is irritated. In Bazarov's voice, he perceives "a churlish, almost insolent note" (6.11).
  • When Bazarov clarifies his admiration for the Germans, Pavel is only more irritated. He says Arkady was just telling them that Bazarov acknowledged no authorities whatsoever.
  • Bazarov says that he only agrees with those who talk sense. He agrees with the Germans when they do, and he disagrees with them when they do not.
  • Pavel says that he has no great admiration for the Germans. There used to be some great Germans, like the authors Schiller and Goethe, but today "they only seem to churn out chemists and materialists" (6.20).
  • Bazarov snaps back, "A decent chemist is twenty times more useful than any poet" (6.21).
  • Pavel tries to pin Bazarov down. He asks if Bazarov believes in art, and Bazarov jokes that he believes in the art of making money. He asks if Bazarov believes in science, but Bazarov again claims that he believes only in what is useful – that there is no such thing as science in the abstract.
  • When Pavel continues with his questioning, Bazarov wonders aloud why he is suffering a cross-examination. Pavel turns pale, and Nikolai intervenes.
  • Nikolai says that he is happy Bazarov is studying the sciences because he might be able to help him with his agricultural labors.
  • Referencing Liebig, the latest German to discover ways of improving the soil, Bazarov says that such science is far above their heads. Still, he will do his best.
  • Nikolai thinks to himself "You are a nihilist all right," and then tells Pavel that it is time for them to go see their new bailiff (overseer of the farm) (6.31).
  • As Pavel rises, he speaks contemptuously to no one. He says it's such a shame that he has spent so much time trying to remember an education that has become obsolete. It has left him just a stupid old man, and he says, "Obviously the younger generation are more intelligent than we are" (6.33).
  • When they leave, Bazarov asks Arkady if his uncle is always like that. Arkady says that Bazarov must admit that he was quite rude to him.
  • Bazarov retorts that he has no intention of pandering to vain old aristocrats. He is about to tell Arkady about a rare specimen of beetle he found in the swamp, but Arkady insists on telling him his uncle's story to prove that "he deserves pity rather than ridicule" (6.40).

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