Fathers and Sons
by Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Rosemary Edmonds's translation.
Time (as we all know) sometimes flies like a bird and sometimes crawls like a snail; but man is happiest when he does not even notice whether time is passing quickly or slowly. (17.1)
The narrator here gives us an "aphorism" – a general truism. He is describing something specific – Bazarov and Arkady's stay at the Odintsovs' – but he decides to expand it into a general principle. How do you feel about this technique? How is this type of wisdom intimately bound up with the point of view that the narrator assumes in the novel? If he took a more limited point of view, would he still be able to leave us with this wisdom?
"You see what I'm doing: there happened to be an empty space in my trunk, and I'm stuffing it with hay; it's the same with the trunk which is our life: we fill it with anything that comes to hand rather than leave a void." (26.150)
After Arkady asks Bazarov why he congratulates him on marriage when Bazarov detests marriage, it becomes clear that Bazarov is aware of a "void" in his own life. It also becomes clear that he knows his attempts to plug this void are fairly trivial; he is willing to "fill it with anything that comes to hand." What do you think is the void in Bazarov's life? Do you think the fact that he is aware of his attempts to fill it make him better off? Does this strike you as a bit of wisdom or just more cleverness?
"Live long, that's best of all, and make the most of it while there's time. Take a good look at this hideous spectacle; a worm, half crushed but writing still. And yet there was a time when I, too, thought of all the things I would do, and never die, why should I? There were problems to solve, I said to myself, and I'm a giant. And now the only problem for this giant is how to die decently, though that makes no difference to anyone." (27.145)
Has Bazarov attained something like wisdom or is he simply in a state of despair? Is it possible to have wisdom without humility? How might someone like Anna Sergeyevna take the advice "die decently" when she is not dying? What do dying decently and living decently have in common? What has Bazarov learned from his own tragedy?