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Themes

Fathers and Sons takes place at a time when a number of traditions were being called into question, if not overthrown outright. As the older generation struggles to come to terms with the new reforms, the younger generation gets carried away and is willing to renounce everything that has come before. All the characters are hemmed in by their customs, and the novel radically calls into question the individual's relation to everything that has come before.

Questions About Traditions and Customs

  1. How is Nikolai and Fenichka's relationship defined by Russian tradition? How is it a break with ordinary customs?
  2. How would you characterize the disconnect between generations that lies at the heart of the novel? Does a sense of tradition seem useful or not?
  3. What is the relationship between a feeling of duty and an appreciation for tradition? Focusing on the characters of Nikolai and Pavel, is it possible to have one without the other?
  4. What is the serf-owning mentality that is being overthrown in the novel? What is the mentality that is meant to replace it?

Chew on This

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

Pavel Petrovich's sense of duty prevents him from calling into question the traditions and customs by which he was raised.

The spirit of general reform set off by the emancipation of the serfs has pushed the younger generation to extreme views as they attempt to define themselves separately from their parents.

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