Fathers and Sons By Ivan Turgenev Summary and Analysis Chapter 18

Summary

The following day, the entire group chooses to remain in the parlor because it is raining outside. Madame Odintsova asks Bazarov to come to the study to point out the chemistry book he had previously suggested she read. Actually, she wants to resume the conversation that was so abruptly broken off the night before.

She tries to discuss happiness and one's purpose in life with Bazarov, but he finds difficulty in discussing such things. "I am not generally accustomed to discussing my feelings and there is such a distance between us." Odintsova presses Bazarov until he is forced to admit what is really happening inside him. She is stunned when he tells her that he is "madly and foolishly" in love with her. When he grabs her and holds her to his chest, she breaks away in complete amazement. The confused Bazarov hurriedly rushes from the room.

Shortly afterward, Bazarov sends her a note requesting permission to stay one more day before he leaves for his visit with his parents. She answers that it is not necessary to go away because the two have not understood each other. Madame Odintsova did not understand her own reaction but thinks that "peace is still the best thing in the world."

Analysis

Madame Odintsova had earlier said that she doesn't know what she wants, and in these chapters seems to be leading Bazarov on to find out his true feelings. It could easily appear and be interpreted that she is acting as a coquette would by suggesting to Bazarov things that she does not mean. But the central point is that she is not content and does not know how to find any type of fulfillment. Thus, she questions Bazarov — the man who has dared not to believe in anything — about his inner feelings in order to try to understand some aspect of her own feelings.

Consequently when Bazarov makes his impassioned declaration of love, Madame Odintsova is entirely taken aback. She was simply not prepared for this. In other words, she has lived an ordered life and is essentially a very self-centered person. She has suffered hardship and has undergone many difficulties; she has now found comfort and does not want to give herself to any person who might interfere with the sense of order and security she now enjoys. After he leaves, she decides that she should not trifle with any commitment because "peace is still the best thing in the world."

In contrast, Bazarov's declaration affects him deeply. It was not something he could easily do. After he declares his love he is visibly affected. "He was gasping; his whole body was visibly trembling. . . . It was passion struggling inside him, strong and tragic." Thus, Bazarov undergoes a greater change than does Madame Odintsova and consequently violates his entire philosophy of "nihilism."

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