Thursday, July 3, 2008

Father and Sons Story Line

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Father and Sons is considered to be Turgenev's best work. It was written in 1862. The title in Russian translates to "Fathers and Children" but is called Father and Sons for linguistic purposes.

The fathers and sons of the novel symbolize the generation gap that occurred among Russians. This story is in response to the cultural divide between liberals in the 1830s and 1840s and the nihilist movement of around the same time.

Father and Sons is set in Russia at the time of the Crimean War in the 1859. Arkady Kirsanov, a recent young graduate from the University of Petersburg, returns home to his father's country estate situated in the outskirts of Russia together with his friend Yevgeny Bazarov, a young revolutionary. Arkady's father, Nikolai, welcomes the two young men heartily to his home called Marino.

Much to the dismay of Pavel, Nikolai's brother and Arkady's uncle, the two young men advocated for a new, radical and strange philosophy called "nihilism". Nihilism is the view that Being or the past and present human existence does not have meaning, direction, purpose, truth or value. Nihilists believe that there is no proof of the existence of Higher Being. It espoused the view that true morality and ethics are not possible. The overriding emotion of nihilism is one of despair because of the belief of the pointlessness of human existence.Being nihilist, they quickly questioned the beliefs of Arkady's Uncle Pavel who believes in the aristocratic traditions of old.

Bazarov's encounter with Pavel Kirsanov is considered a symbol of the struggle between the fathers or those who promoted the liberal way of thinking in the 1840s and their nihilist "sons".

In his arguments against liberalism, Bazarov pointed out "Aristocratism, liberalism, progress, principles …. just think, how many foreign…and useless words". Bazarov assures Pavel that he will give up nihilism if Pavel can prove to him that "a single institution of contemporary life, either in the family or in the social sphere, that doesn’t deserve absolute and merciless rejection." Despite his great dislike for traditional Russia, Bazarov still believes in the value of pure science.

Nikolai felt strange welcoming Arkady to his home because he was not comfortable with these strange philosophies of nihilism the young man preached which contrasted his traditional liberal views. Also, he had a servant named Fenichka who lived with him and he had a son by her.

The two men stayed at Marino for a few days only. They then proceeded to visit Arkady's relative in another province. While there, the young men met Madame Anna Odintsova. She invited them to stay at her estate Nikolskoe.

At Nikolskoe, they met Katya, the younger pretty sister of Madame Odintsova. Arkady was attracted to Madame Odintsova but soon found himself enamored by Katya's charms. They stayed at the estate for a short time.

When the two men meet Madame Odintsov, a young widow and her younger sister Katya, their nihilistic views are put to the test.

The object of Bazarov's affection Anna Odintsova is a beautiful young widow. She inherited country estate when her husband died. She was contented with her freedom but found herself getting more and more attracted to the radical Bazarov. She lured the womanizer to her lair until he fell madly in love with her. She told Bazarov that she is "unhappy" and that she does not want to "go on" and wants "strong atttachment" that is "all or nothing. A life for a life. You take mine, you give up yours, without regrets, without turning back".

Bazarov fell in love with Madame Odintsova. When Bazarov confesses his love for her, Odintsova turns him down brutally. She felt tortured after regretting her decision to turn down Bazarov and fearing the she threw away her only chance of one, true love. She finally made up her mind by saying “No. God knows where it might have led; one mustn’t fool around with this kind of thing.”

Bazarov's nihilistic tendencies was put to test when he fell in love with Madame Anna Odintsova, a widow. His views on nihilism did not prepare him for the pain caused by unrequited love. He was not able to cope up with the pain.

After he got rejected by Odintsova, Bazarov went back to his parent's home. He complained to Arkady, "…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."

Bazarov was brokenhearted and felt bothered by the rejection. He was difficult to get along with. He and Arkady almost exchanged blows. His nihilistic views are inadequate to account for his feelings. He became frustrated, bored and discontented.

They stayed only for a few days and headed back to Marino in order to see Madame Odintsova who did not welcome them to her home. They left and headed to Arkady's home.

Arkady went back to see Katya. Bazarov stayed at Marino to conduct scientific studies. He and Pavel could not get along well. Bazarov loves chatting with Fenichka. Bazarov gave her a kiss which was witnessed by Pavel.

Pavel felt he needed to defend his brother Nikolai's honor so he challenged Brazarov to a duel. Bazarov and Pavel's contrasting views became very pronounced when Bazarov wounds Pavel in the duel. He was forced to leave Marino after this. Bazarov passed by Madame Odintsova's house before continuing to his parent's home.

Arkady, on the other hand, was falling in love with Katya. They were engaged. The traditional notions of marriage and estate management Arkady experienced was in sharp contrast to Bazarov's despair and Anna's loveless, empty life.

Bazarov returned to his parents' home. While there, Bazarov could not concentrate on his work due to his heartache. He failed to take necessary precautions as he performed an autopsy. He got sick with typhus in the process. On his deathbed he sent for Madame Odintsova. She arrived in the nick of time and Bazarov told her how beautiful she is.
Bazarov died.

Arkady marries Katya and manages his father's estate. Nikolai, his father, married Fenichka. Pavel left the country and lived as a "noble" in Dresden, Germany.

At the end of the story, we find Bazarov's parents visiting his grave. "They walk with a heavy step, supporting each other; when they approach the railing, they fall on their knees and remain there for a long time, weeping bitterly, gazing attentively at the headstone under which their son lies buried: they exchange a few words, brush the dust off the stone, move a branch of the pine tree, and pray once again; they can’t forsake this place where they seem to feel closer to their son, to their memories of him… Can it really be that their prayers and tears are futile? Can it really be that love, sacred, devoted love is not all powerful? Oh, no!"

The parents love made Bazarov immortal. Bazarov, in a way, overcome death because of the love of his parents.

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