Study Guide

Fathers and Sons Love

By Ivan Turgenev


"And how is Uncle Pavel? Is he keeping well?" inquired Arkady, anxious, in spite of the genuine almost childish delight filling his heart, to switch the conversation as soon as possible from an emotional to a more commonplace level. (3.2)

Why might Arkady wish to switch the conversation to a more commonplace level? Why do you think he feels the need to conceal his love for his father? How do children express their love for their parents differently as they grow older?

Father and son were equally glad to see him at that moment; there are affecting situations from which one is anxious nevertheless to escape as quickly as possible. (5.35)

Why do both of them feel the desire to escape from the situation? How might the situation have resolved itself if Pavel did not appear? Do you agree with the narrator about these certain types of "affecting situations?" What else characterizes such a situation?

"That sphinx is – you." (7.4).

The sphinx is engraved on the ring that Pavel gives to his one true love, Princess R. What do the object of love and a riddle have in common? Why is it that Pavel is particularly drawn to the enigmatic nature of Princess R, to the fact that he cannot understand her?

Like all women who have not succeeded in falling in love she hankered after something without knowing what it was. (16.84)

Note that this is the narrator describing Anna Sergeyevna. Does his description strike you as an over-simplification? Does it strike you as sexist? Do you think this line would be widely accepted if it occurred in a novel today?

Bazarov was a great devotee of women and of feminine beauty, but love in the ideal – or, as he would have expressed it, the romantic – sense he called tomfoolery, unpardonable imbecility. (17.3)

What do you think Bazarov's problem is with romanticism? How might it be linked with his personal pride? Earlier in the novel he says that he has no patience for science in the abstract, but that science can be very useful. Might he have a similar view of love? Is love sometimes useful?

"We were discussing happiness, I believe. I was telling you about myself. Incidentally, I just used the word 'happiness.' Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess? Why is it? Or perhaps you never felt like that?" (18.10)

Why does Anna Sergeyevna talk about happiness and not about love? Do you think she realizes what she is doing to Bazarov? Why do you suspect she is saying this to Bazarov and not to someone else? What do you make of the description, "a hint of some infinite felicity"? Does this seem to you an accurate description of happiness? Of love?

"If I did not love Nikolai Petrovich I would have nothing to live for." (24.147)

This is what Fenichka says to Pavel when he questions her on her commitment to his brother. Notice how there is a hidden literality in this statement. Since Nikolai is her caretaker, if she does not love him then she will be out on the streets by herself. What do you make of this cynical reading? Are love and economic practicality compatible?

"Fenichka," he said in a sort of strange whisper, "love him, do love my brother! He is such a good, kind man. Don't betray him for anyone in the world. Don't heed anyone else! Think – what could be more terrible than to love and not be loved in return! Never forsake my poor dear Nikolai!" (24.162)

Why do you think Pavel is so invested in Nikolai and Fenichka's relationship? Why do you think he doesn't pursue his own loves anymore? How would it feel safer for him to pursue loves once removed? How is it safer for him to invest his own happiness in his brother?

"Well, what had I to say to you... That I loved you? That made no sense before, and makes less than ever now. Love is a form, and my particular form is already disintegrating. Better let me say – how lovely you are! And now there you stand, so beautiful..." (27.141)

What does Bazarov mean that "love is a form"? Does this in some way harken back to his obsession with female beauty? Is he denying that love is a feeling, a deep-rooted emotion? Why is it more comforting for him to locate loveliness in Anna Sergeyevna objectively than it is for him to admit that he loves her (subjectively)?

Anna Sergeyevna has recently married again, not for love but out of conviction (that it was the reasonable thing to do) a man who promises to be one of the future leaders of Russia, a very able lawyer possessed of vigorous practical sense, a strong will and remarkable gifts of eloquence. He is quite young still, kind-hearted and cold as ice. They live in the greatest harmony together, and may live to attain happiness... or even love. (28.9)

Does Anna Sergeyevna's behavior in the story make this future predictable? Why do you think she is attracted to excessively rational men? What is it about her that makes her incapable of love? What's the difference between harmony and love? Do you think it's possible to fall in love with someone after you marry them?