Four Main Characters in "Fathers and Sons" Analytical Essay

Four Main Characters in "Fathers and Sons"
An analysis of the four main characters in Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" that also considers the text's relationship to social movements and Russian history.
# 154095 | 2,989 words | 1 source | 2006 | US
Published on Jan 06, 2015 in Literature (Russian)

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This paper compares the four main characters of Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" as well as the novel's relationship to the various intellectual and social movements of the time, including nihilism and Romanticism.

From the Paper:

"Ivan Turgenev's 1861 novel Fathers and Sons documents a tumultuous period in Russian history. Turgenev uses characters like Bazarov and the Kirsanov family (Arkady, Pavel, and Nikolai) to explore different relationships to ``old'' and ``new'' and the impact of nihilism on Russia at that time. While Bazarov and Pavel strongly embody different ideas (nihilism and conservatism, respectively), Arkady and Nikolai are somewhat in between these two strong ideological poles. This paper will compare the four main characters of Fathers and Sons and consider their relationship to the various intellectual and social movements of the time, including nihilism and Romanticism.
Yevgeny Vassilievitch Bazarov is, in some ways, Father and Sons's central character. When Arkady graduates from St. Petersburg University and returns to his family estate, Marino, Arkady brings Bazarov with him, and Bazarov introduces the family to nihilism. As a nihilist, Bazarov is very much a part of the ``new'' ways of the world; he rejects tradition, relationships, emotions, and even patriotism. These extreme beliefs make him contrast strongly with Pavel, Arkady's brother, who prides himself on being an aristocrat in the old model and is fastidious about his appearance and his manners. Bazarov, and Arkady to some extent, represent the kinds of ideas intellectuals at Russian universities and beyond advocated. These ideas often clashed greatly with the conservative beliefs and traditions of the countryside, as demonstrated by Bazarov and Arkady's somewhat unsuccessful transition from university to countryside.
The character that most strongly contrasts with Bazarov is Pavel. Unlike his nephew, Arkady, Pavel has not gone to university and is not familiar with or sympathetic to nihilism. Although Arkady, Pavel, and Nikolai are all members of the landed aristocracy, it is Pavel who clings to the old ways and old values (or conservatism) most. In his dress, mannerisms, and ideas, Pavel demonstrates a somewhat outdated approach--not at all in line with new schools of thought or the social changes brewing in Russia that would result in the emancipation of the serfs. Compared with the other characters, Pavel is the least vital. He seems to have no real role or responsibilities and is preoccupied with tradition and decorum. When Nikolai decides to marry Fenichka, who is a serf, Pavel is initially opposed, but eventually approves. At the novel's close, Pavel is living idly in Dresden as a gentleman. Although Pavel's character is rigid and inflexible, the reader is still capable of sympathizing with him because of the tragic quality of his life. In this way, the "old" life of traditional aristocracy is cast as something outmoded and slightly pitiful by those who advocate for it."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Works Cited
  • Turgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons. Richard Freeborn, trans. New York: Oxford University
  • Press, 1998.

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