Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

Whereas half of the characters in Fathers and Sons are overwhelmingly sincere (Nikolai and Arkady), others are defined, above all, by their wit (Bazarov, Madame Odintsov). At times, cleverness seems to be a sign of superior intelligence, and at times it seems nothing but an effort to disguise how little a character knows. As the novel goes on, it becomes clear that the characters who most like to play with words eventually are left at the mercy of them; their words seem to play with them as they get tricked into believing their own clever quips.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. Is Bazarov's magnetic personality a result of his cleverness and wit?
  2. To what extent are Bazarov and other characters trapped by their own cunning? In what sense might these characters' actions become confined by the way that they use words?
  3. Does cleverness seem a sign of intelligence in the novel or it simply an attempt to hide one's ignorance?
  4. What is the relationship between cleverness and fear? Cleverness and pride?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Bazarov uses witty retorts in an attempt to hide his own ignorance and inability to argue logically.

Bazarov often seems more interested in how a sentence sounds than in what it means; he becomes trapped by his cleverness because he actually believes his own quips.

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