Bazarov is most often considered the central figure in the novel. He inculcates the central idea of "nihilism" and acts as the representative force of the new generation against which the older characters of traditional beliefs can react.
Bazarov is a nihilist of humble background whose life-view involves a rejection of anything that has previously been accepted as valid. The "nihilist" refuses to take anyone's word for anything; he can have no alliances and no emotions; he cares no more for one country than for another and accepts only that which is scientifically proven.
The purpose of the nihilist is to destroy all the existing institutions and values. He considers himself and his kind as a type of pure force whose purpose it is "to clear the site" of traditional values without any consideration of rebuilding or of replacing them with new ones. The ultimate end of the nihilist would seem to be self-destruction, because he can never let stand that which someone else has built and when all is destroyed, he must then turn inward.
When we first meet Bazarov, he adheres strictly to his philosophy of nihilism. In brief arguments with Pavel and others, he spurns art, literature, music, and even loyalty to one's country because none of these things have any meaning to him. As for love and romance, he feels that Pavel or any man who allows himself to be influenced by a woman is idiotic. He believes that if a woman appeals to you that you should have your way with her or leave her.
The first person who ever challenged Bazarov's views was Madame Odintsova. She believed in a type of "order" in her life, whereas the concept of "order" is in direct violation to the nihilist's way of thinking. Bazarov begins to sway in the presence of this grand lady. He knew very soon that he would never have his way with her and at the same time, he did not have the strength to leave her. He finds himself in a situation similar to the one he ridiculed Pavel for being in. Thus, a man who had previously ridiculed emotion and love, makes an empassioned declaration of love and after he realizes that he has made a fool of himself, he cannot return to his past security within the limits of his nihilistic philosophy.
Bazarov never abandons his earlier views, but they do become somewhat modified toward the end of the novel. His response to Fenichka and to his own parents indicates a slight change in his character. Furthermore, when he is dying, his romantic last desire to see Madame Odintsova suggests the degree to which he has strayed away from the concepts of pure "nihilism."