© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons


by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Theme of Man and the Natural World

When Virginia Woolf discussed Fathers and Sons, she noted how the human characters do not exist in isolation from the natural world. As she put it, their struggles take on all the more significance because they are not the whole of the scene, but only a "part of the whole." The novel is full of beautiful descriptions of the Russian countryside, and characters are often distinguished by their attitudes toward nature. Being able to appreciate nature becomes linked with a feeling of wonder and awe for existence in general.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What is the relationship between inner psychology and the natural world in the novel? How do natural descriptions tell us something about what is going on in the characters' heads?
  2. How do the lengthy descriptions in the novel situate the characters in relation to the setting? How prominent do humans seem after a discussion of the movements of various animals?
  3. What is the relationship in the novel between romanticism and an appreciation for the natural world?
  4. Which characters view nature as something to be exploited? Which view it as something to be appreciated? How does this sum up their relations to the lands on which they live?

Chew on This

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

Nikolai Petrovich and Vassily Ivanych seem to have an appreciation for the land, in part because their livelihoods depend on it; with time, this sense of dependence blooms into full-scale romanticism.

The lengthy natural descriptions in the novel remind the reader of how insignificant human drama is when viewed from the perspective of nature.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...