Fathers and Sons
Fathers and Sons
by Ivan Turgenev
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Fathers and Sons Theme of Pride

Nihilism is a philosophy of the proud. It isn't possible to renounce everything that has come before without a certain amount of confidence in one's own position. In Fathers and Sons, it quickly becomes apparent that the reason Bazarov is such a good proponent of nihilism is because he is incredibly vain. As much as the ideas of the younger generation, what will catch Pavel Petrovich's attention (Pavel is a proud man himself) is Bazarov's conceit. Indeed, it is – in large part – pride that makes the conflicts of the story escalate; they can't make themselves back down and seek reconciliation.

Questions About Pride

  1. In what ways is nihilism bound up with individual pride?
  2. How are Bazarov and Pavel bound together by their personal vanity? How are they driven apart by it?
  3. Is pride, as Nikolai says, necessary in order to succeed? Has a lack of pride kept Nikolai from succeeding more than he does?
  4. As the novel goes on, Bazarov begins to develop a keen awareness of his own insignificance. Does this strike you as a true revelation or simply as pride in a different guise?

Chew on This

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

The reason that Pavel and Bazarov butt heads from the very beginning has less to do with their differing philosophies than with the fact that they are both immensely proud. Without vanity, they could quickly have come to a sense of mutual understanding.

When discussing his own insignificance, the key point Bazarov makes is that he is more aware of his insignificance than other people are of theirs. His newfound humility is, then, just another way for him to explain why he is superior to the people around him.

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