Study Guide

Fathers and Sons Admiration

By Ivan Turgenev


"Natural science is his main subject. But he knows everything. Next year he wants to take a degree in medicine." (3.15)

Do you think that Arkady's description of Bazarov makes it likely that Nikolai will like him or not? Isn't there something sort of absurd about claiming that Bazarov "knows everything"? Wouldn't this make most people defensive? Does Nikolai seem to get defensive?

"But you haven't seen so much of the world for nothing: you understand people. You see through them with the eye of an eagle." (8.1)

What seems to be the basis for Nikolai's admiration of his brother? How are these same qualities in part responsible for Pavel's sadness? Does Nikolai seem to be aware of the fact that the admiration is not flowing equally both ways?

"The present condition of the people requires it," added Arkady pompously. "We are bound to carry out these requirements, we have no right to indulge in the gratification of our personal egoism."

This last sentence obviously did not please Bazarov: it smacked of philosophy, that is, of romanticism, for Bazarov considered philosophy synonymous with romanticism; but he did not judge it necessary to contradict his young disciple. (10.66-67)

How does Arkady give himself away? What we mean is, how does he give away the fact that he is not voicing his own opinions but those of another (Bazarov)? How does this bit capture the tense nature of the relationship between Bazarov and his disciple? Is it possible to tell someone what they are required to do without partaking in personal egoism?

"Well, what do you think of her?" he asked, skipping obsequiously from right to left of them. "Didn't I tell you she was a remarkable personality? If only we had more women like her! She is, in her own way, a highly moral phenomenon."

"And is that establishment of your dear papa's also a moral phenomenon?" muttered Bazarov, pointing to a vodka-shop which they were passing at that moment. (13.70-71)

Why do you think Sitnikov describes Madame Kukshin as a "highly moral phenomenon"? Why do you think he expected that Bazarov would like her? What about Bazarov makes him predisposed not to like those he is opposed to admire? Does he have any companions he considers at his level? What about Madame Kukshin in particular made him dislike her?

Her nose – like most Russian noses – was a trifle thick and her complexion was not translucently clear; but Arkady decided that he had never yet met such a fascinating woman. The sound of her voice haunted his ears; the very folds of her dress seemed to fall differently – more gracefully and amply than on other women – and her every movement was wonderfully flowing and natural. (14.18)

Arkady's entire perception of Madame Odintsov is colored by the fact that he finds her beautiful. Yet what parts of it seem to be distortions and what parts seem to be true? What is the key thing about Odintsov's appearance that makes Arkady admire her as much as he does?

"There you have him! A comical old chap with a heart of gold," remarked Bazarov as soon as Vassily Ivanych had gone. "Just as queer a fish as your father, only in a different way. Never stops talking." (20.29)

Is Bazarov expressing real admiration for his father here? If so, how is this admiration incongruous with the condescending way that he often treats him? Does he sound more like a son appreciating his father or a father appreciating his son?

"I ought to tell you, I... worship my son! I won't even speak of my good wife – we all know what mothers are! – but I dare not show my feelings in front of him, because he doesn't like it. He is against every kind of demonstration of feeling; many people even find fault with him for such strength of character, and take it for a sign of arrogance or lack of sensibility; but men like him ought not to be judged by any ordinary standards, ought they? For example, others in his place would have been a constant drag on their parents; but he – would you believe it? – from the day he was born he has never taken a penny more than he could help, that is God's truth!" (21.19)

Vassily Ivanych makes it clear that he often gives Bazarov the benefit of the doubt since he considers him such a great man. Do you think this is justified? To what extent does it seem that Bazarov's conceit is a result of the way his parents cater to his every whim? Are there people who are simply great enough that they deserve to be held by different standards?

"And I not only worship him, Arkady Nikolayevich, I am proud of him, and the height of my ambition is that some day the following lines will appear in his biography: 'The son of an ordinary army-doctor, who was able, however, to recognize his talents early in life and spared no pains for his education...'" (21.21)

Do you think that there is any self-pride in Vassily Ivanych's estimation of Bazarov? Does his aspiration seem noble to you? Does it seem any different than the way any parent worships their child?

"No, my dear brother, enough of worrying about appearances and what people think: we are quiet, elderly folk now; it's high time we laid aside the vanity of the world." (24.181)

Why do you think Pavel picks this moment to lay aside "the vanity of the world"? Hint: he has a bullet hole in his thigh that may or may not be linked with his vanity and pride. Is he really done worrying about other people think? When was he more concerned? As people grow older do they really stop worrying about what other people think or do they just realize how little they can control it?

"Katerina Sergeyevna!" began Arkady suddenly. "It may be all the same to you but I should like you to know that I wouldn't exchange you for your sister or for any one else in the world either." (25.79)

Is Arkady confessing to love or admiration here? Why do you think he leaves out the word love? Why is it that the discussion of Anna Sergeyevna brings this out in him?