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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons

by Ivan Turgenev

Love Theme

Bazarov, the main character of Fathers and Sons, does not believe in love. At the beginning, he makes fun of Arkady's uncle, Pavel Petrovich, for giving up after a failed love affair. Yet, as the novel goes on, Bazarov falls head over heels for a woman that does not love him back. It becomes clear that the happiness of the characters will be determined less by their ambition and more by their ability to succeed in love. As the narrator explicitly states at the end of novel, it is love that is the ultimate refutation of nihilism.

Questions About Love

  1. To what extent do failed love affairs shape the destinies of different characters in the story? What characterizes those who fail in love (Pavel, Bazarov, Anna Sergeyevna) and those who succeed (Nikolai, Arkady, Katya)?
  2. What are some of the constraints on the love between parents and children that are explored in the story? Why do you think the children need distance from their parents even if they adore them?
  3. What is the relationship between love and practicality in the novel? Thinking specifically of Nikolai and Fenichka, does their relationship seem guided by economic necessity or true love?
  4. Why do you think Bazarov renounces romance and love? What is it about love that keeps him from believing in it?

Chew on This

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

The proudest characters in the novel are those who are most overwhelmed by love for the specific reason that they try to control feelings that are uncontrollable.

Fenichka and Nikolai's relationship is characterized more by necessity than by love. Nikolai needs Fenichka to temper his loneliness, and Fenichka needs Nikolai for economic security.

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