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Introduction/Context

Title: Fathers and Sons Author: Ivan Turgenev

Introduction:

The protagonist present in the novel Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev is a boy named Bazarov who happens to be a nihilist. This novel was written after the rise of nihilism. In the novel themes like traditions are seen throughout the story between the conflicts of the old generation and their beliefs and the new, younger generation. It also focuses on what it truly means to be Russian.

Biography of Ivan Turgenev:

Ivan Turgenev was born in Russia on October 28, 1818. He was born into nobility, his father was fairly rich but his mother’ wealth was what classified him as a nobel. His education begun at a early age considering the time period he lived in by home tutors. He later studied at multiple universities at Moscow, St. Petersburg and Berlin. In his time, he was recognized as the of all Russian authors. His first novel named “Rudin” was published in 1856. Him travelling a lot led to him studying at many universities and meet great philosophers and authors from different regions. This heavily influenced his knowledge and what and how he wrote his novels. Unlike many other Russian authors, Turgenev found inspiration in texts from all around the world. One of the biggest influences for his novel Fathers and Sons was his own personal life. In the podcast, Romanes Lecture in 1970, Turgenev explained that many of the dialouges in the novel were from conversations that he actually had. Also, the death of his dear friend also may have been an influences. “Rather than engaging in philosophical fights and metaphysical views of the human condition, Turgenev engaged immediate, recognizable issues realistically”. This could have been an influence for his character Bazarov since he is also a realistic person but to the extreme which becomes nihilism. Turgenev saw this similarity and wrote this book in an attempt to prove nihilism wrong. “Ivan Turgenev stands out as an naturalist.. His most most famous hero, the controversial Bazarov in Fathers and sons, is a nihilist, otherwise his ‘heros’ are non-heros”.

Literary/Critical Analysis:

How the point of view affects the novel: Third person: Omniscient

The narrator has no direct relation with the story. He is able to read the characters minds. The narrator is also aware of you as the reader. The narrator’s controversial tone is evident as the story starts. After he introduces Nikolai Petrovich, father of Arkardy who is Bazarov’s best friend, he says “and so we meet him, quite grey now, stoutish and a trifle bent” (Turgenev 8). This signifies that he is omniscient and draws you in as the reader in a personal yet familiar way,

Writing Style:

Turgenev’s writing style in this novel is descriptive and precise. In on the of the most sad scenes in the novel, Turgene manages to make it even more emotional in the way he writes it. In this scene, Pavel begs Fenchika to love his brother Nikolai. He becomes emotionally unstable after he tells her this and begins to cry. He cries so biolently that Fencchika thinks he is having a seizure. The full force of how sad this moment really is does not hit the reader until the last line.
“At that moment the whole of his wasted life stirred within him” (Turgenev 15). The sentence draws its full force from the words ‘wasted’ and ‘stirred’. With the word ‘wasted’ we get Pavel’s judgement of his life. With the work ‘stirred’, we get a good idea of his emotions that he has been unable to express until this moment, It’s the nature of this line which makes it so affecting. It is not like Turgenev is trying to suggest meanings by giving hints to us to come up with our own meanings of the line. The description itself is so well down that it is hard to think of any other meaning.

In this next scene we truly see how descriptive Turgenev is while still being precise, “Nikolai Petrovich let his head drop… is lost in reverie” (Turgenev 9). In this passage, Turgenev moves from one imagery to another. The hen is ‘speckled’, and it did not walk, it ‘strutted’. The cat was ‘frimy’, and it did not lay on the ground but on the ‘railing’. With each imagery, Turgenev builds up an entire scene. We are left to assume that the world in the novel is as descriptive as he describes it.

“When Fathers and sons was first released in 1862, members of the young generation were outraged because they thought that Turgenev was mocking them through the character of Bazarov”. As you read the novel you com across lines that help you understand their anger. For example, when Bazarov describes love between a man and a woman, he says “That’s all romantic rot, mouldy aesthetics, we had better go and inspect the beetle” (Turgenev 19). After reading that line it’s hard to imagine an intelligent young man such as Bazarov to not realize how ridiculous he sounds. It’s almost as if the narrator or the author himself is playing with Bazarov. Ironically, as the novel goes on, it becomes clear that the narrator writes about each of his characters with great sympathy. He depicts situations carefully and truthfully.

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