Fathers and Sons (novel)

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Fathers and Sons
Otsy1880.jpg
Title page of the second edition (Leipzig, Germany, 1880)
AuthorIvan Turgenev
Original titleОтцы и дети (Otcy i deti, IPA: [ɐˈtsɨ i ˈdʲetʲi])
CountryRussia
LanguageRussian
GenrePolitical, romance, philosophical
PublisherThe Russian Messenger
Publication date
February 1862
Media typeHardback and paperback
Pages226 pp (2001 Modern Library Paperback Edition)
Preceded byOn the Eve
Followed bySmoke
 
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Fathers and Sons
Otsy1880.jpg
Title page of the second edition (Leipzig, Germany, 1880)
AuthorIvan Turgenev
Original titleОтцы и дети (Otcy i deti, IPA: [ɐˈtsɨ i ˈdʲetʲi])
CountryRussia
LanguageRussian
GenrePolitical, romance, philosophical
PublisherThe Russian Messenger
Publication date
February 1862
Media typeHardback and paperback
Pages226 pp (2001 Modern Library Paperback Edition)
Preceded byOn the Eve
Followed bySmoke

Fathers and Sons is an 1862 novel by Ivan Turgenev, one of his best-known works.[1] The title of this work in Russian is Отцы и дети (Otcy i Deti), which literally means "Fathers and Children"; the work is often translated to Fathers and Sons in English for both euphony and tradition.

Plot[edit]

Arkady Kirsanov has just graduated from the University of Petersburg and returns with a friend, Bazarov, to his father's modest estate in an outlying province of Russia. His father, Nikolai, gladly receives the two young men at his estate, called Marino, but Nikolai's brother, Pavel, soon becomes upset by the strange new philosophy called "nihilism" which the young men advocate.

Nikolai feels awkward with his son at home, partially because Arkady's views have dated his own beliefs, and partially because he has taken a servant, Fenichka, into his house to live with him and has already had a son by her.

The two young men remain at Marino for a short time, then decide to visit a relative of Arkady's in a neighboring province. There they observe the local gentry and meet Madame Odintsova, an elegant woman of independent means who invites them to spend a few days at her estate, Nikolskoe.

At Nikolskoe, they also meet Katya, Madame Odintsova's sister. Although they remain for only a short period, both characters change a lot. Their relationship with each other is especially affected, because they both find themselves drawn to Madame Odintsova. Bazarov in particular, finding this distressing because falling in love goes against his beliefs. Eventually, he announces that he loves her. She does not respond to his declaration, and soon after, Arkady and Bazarov leave for Bazarov's home.

At Bazarov's home, they are received enthusiastically by his parents. Bazarov is still disturbed by his rejection, and treats them poorly as a result. Later, he almost comes to blows with Arkady after the latter makes a joke about fighting over Bazarov's cynicism. After a brief stay, they decide to return to Marino, stopping on the way to see Madame Odintsova, who receives them coolly. They leave almost immediately and return to Arkady's home.

Arkady remains for only a few days, and makes an excuse to leave in order to go to Nikolskoe. Once there, he realizes he is no longer in love with Odintsova, but instead with her sister Katya. Bazarov stays at Marino to do some scientific research, and tension between him and Pavel increases. Bazarov enjoys talking with Fenichka and playing with her child, and one day he gives her a quick, harmless kiss. Pavel observes this kiss and, secretly in love with Fenichka himself, challenges Bazarov to a duel. Pavel is wounded slightly, and Bazarov must leave Marino. He stops for an hour or so at Madame Odintsova's, then continues on to his parents' home. Meanwhile, Arkady and Katya have fallen in love and have become engaged.

At home, Bazarov cannot keep his mind on his work and while performing an autopsy fails to take the proper precautions. He accidentally cuts himself and contracts typhus. On his deathbed, he sends for Madame Odintsova, who arrives just in time to hear Bazarov tell her how beautiful she is. She kisses him on the forehead and leaves; Bazarov later dies from his illness the following day.

Arkady marries Katya and takes over the management of his father's estate. His father marries Fenichka and is delighted to have his son home with him. Pavel leaves the country and lives the rest of his life as a "noble" in Dresden, Germany.

Major characters[edit]

Human emotion and love as redemption[edit]

Bazarov's nihilism falls apart in the face of human emotions, specifically his love for Anna Odintsova. His nihilism does not account for the pain that his unrequited love causes him, and this introduces a despair that he is not capable of contending with. Bazarov returns to his family after Odintsova rejects him. Bazarov complains to Arkady that "...they, that is, my parents, are occupied, and don't worry in the least about their own insignificance; they don't give a damn about it... While I...I feel only boredom and anger." [3] His theory's inability to account for his emotions frustrates him and he sinks deep into boredom and ennui. [4]

And then there is the enigmatic Anna Odintsova, a beautiful young woman of lowly origin. By virtue of having married well and been widowed young, she has inherited an exceedingly comfortable and insular life on a palatial country estate. In a letter written the same year the novel was published, Turgenev revealed that he conceived of Anna as “the representative of our idle, dreaming, curious and cold epicurean young ladies, our female nobility.” [5] And yet, as with Bazarov, Turgenev’s fictional creation takes on a life of its own, superseding the author’s intellectual scheme to become a complex and perplexing figure. Apparently content at the outset with her unattached life, Anna finds herself increasingly attracted to the blunt, unorthodox, highly intelligent Bazarov. She proceeds almost unwittingly to emotionally seduce the self-declared womanizer, luring him step by step in a pair of riveting, back-to-back passages to reveal his love. In the intimacy of her study, Anna confesses that she is very “unhappy,” that she has no desire to “go on,” that she longs for a “strong attachment” that is “all or nothing. A life for a life. You take mine, you give up yours, without regrets, without turning back.” [6]And yet, a moment after Bazarov capitulates and confesses his love, Odintsova rejects him brutally. Afterward, she is tortured, alternately blaming and excusing herself while fearing she may have thrown away a chance for genuine love. Finally she decides, “No. God knows where it might have led; one mustn’t fool around with this kind of thing.” [7]

Conversely, Turgenev shows us Arkady and Nikolai's traditional happiness in marriage and estate management as the solution to Bazarov's cosmic despair and Anna's life of loveless comfort. (Arkady marries Anna Odintsova's sister Katya, though he was also originally in love with Anna). The height of the conflict between Bazarov and the older generation comes when Bazarov wounds Pavel in a duel. Finally, Turgenev also refutes Bazarov's "insignificance principle", i.e., the nihilist idea that life is utterly insignificant and that nothing remains after death: after leaving and then returning again to his parents, Bazarov dies of typhus.

Historical context and notes[edit]

The fathers and children of the novel refers to the growing divide between the two generations of Russians, and the character Yevgeny Bazarov, a nihilist who rejects the old order.

Turgenev wrote Fathers and Sons as a response to the growing cultural schism that he saw between liberals of the 1830s/1840s and the growing nihilist movement. Both the nihilists (the "sons") and the 1830s liberals sought Western-based social change in Russia. Additionally, these two modes of thought were contrasted with the Slavophiles, who believed that Russia's path lay in its traditional spirituality.

Turgenev's novel was responsible for popularizing the use of the term nihilism, which became widely used after the novel was published.[2]

Fathers and Sons might be regarded as the first wholly modern novel in Russian Literature (Gogol's Dead Souls, another main contender, was referred to by the author as a poem or epic in prose as in the style of Dante's Divine Comedy, and was at any rate never completed). The novel introduces a dual character study, as seen with the gradual breakdown of Bazarov's and Arkady's nihilistic opposition to emotional display, especially in the case of Bazarov's love for Madame Odintsova and Fenichka. This prominent theme of character duality and deep psychological insight would exert an influence on most of the great Russian novels to come, most obviously echoed in the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

The novel is also the first Russian work to gain prominence in the Western world, eventually gaining the approval of well established novelists Gustave Flaubert,[3] Guy de Maupassant,[4] and Henry James.[5]

Adaptations[edit]

Canadian playwright George F. Walker's 1988 play Nothing Sacred is a stage adaptation of Fathers and Sons.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Turgenev, Ivan (1941). The best known works of Ivan Turgenev; including Fathers and sons, Smoke and nine short stories. Greystone Press. 
  2. ^ "Nihilismus". Johannes Kepler University. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Kakutani, Michiko. "Books of the Times". New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Power, Chris. "a brief survey of the short story part 50: Ivan Turgenev". Guardian News. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  5. ^ James, Henry. "Ivan Turgenev". Eldritch Press. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Refracting Russia Through the Present". Newsday, October 23, 1992.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, 38.
  2. ^ Ibid., 42.
  3. ^ Ibid., 98.
  4. ^ Ibid., 142-3.
  5. ^ Ibid., 176
  6. ^ Ibid., 75-6
  7. ^ Ibid., 80
  8. ^ Ibid., 156-7.

External links[edit]