The two friends leave the next day, and instead of going to Fyodot's, they follow an impulse and go to Madame Odintsova's, even though they both know that they are indulging in a bit of "foolishness." They realize the impropriety of their actions when they arrive and find Madame Odintsova somewhat cold and nonrecepttive to their sudden return visit.
Arkady realizes that he had wanted to see Katya as much as he had wanted to see Madame Odintsova, but the younger sister never emerged from her room during the entire day. They leave Nikolskoe and return to Marino, where they are received with open arms.
Things have not been going well for Nikolai: the hired laborers are giving him trouble, the new machinery has proved ineffective, and the peasants are squabbling among themselves. All Pavel can do is to admonish his brother to remain calm at all costs. Arkady is sympathetic, and Bazarov chooses not to get involved with any of the family problems.
Arkady thinks about Nikolskoe constantly and is surprised to find that he feels bored under the same roof with Bazarov. Under the pretext of studying the organization of Sunday schools in the area, he gallops off to Madame Odintsova's. He is delighted that the first person he meets is Katya, and soon overcomes his uneasiness when Madame Odintsova greets him rather warmly.
The opening scene is somewhat comic when we consider that these two are supposed to be adult and intellectual "nihilists." Both of them realize that in terms of their code they are being foolish in even considering a return visit to Madame Odintsova's. As they hedge the question they appear more like two immature school boys than adults, and the decision is finally just a whim which both later regret. Arkady finally makes the decision, and as he does so, he is suddenly aware that he wants to see Katya as much as he ever wanted to see Madame Odintsova. This is for him a momentous step in separating himself from Bazarov.
Important in this chapter is the ineffective romantic who cannot manage to control his help and allows the farm to deteriorate. All the "aristocratic" Pavel can do is say, "Du calme! Du calme!" Nikolai simply does not know how to manage the farm, and Pavel is too wrapped up in his own little world. Bazarov is also seen as an ineffective person because he refuses to become involved in any of the problems. The hope lies with Arkady, who assimilates the romantic and the practical, the ideal and the real.
Symbolically at the end of the chapter, Arkady strikes off on his own for the first time. Never before could he have conceived of being bored under the same roof as Bazarov, but now, he is beginning to establish his own identity and he returns to Nikolskoe, not to see Madame Odintsova but to find Katya.