Fathers and Sons By Ivan Turgenev Summary and Analysis Chapter 24

Summary

Two hours later, Pavel calls on Bazarov and asks about the latter's views on dueling. Bazarov says that theoretically duels are absurd, but that they can serve a practical purpose. Much to Bazarov's amazement, Pavel challenges him to a duel for the ostensible reason that he finds Bazarov detestable and superfluous at Marino. They agree to fight with pistols at eight paces and without benefit of seconds at six a.m. the next day. Bazarov insists that they have a witness and suggests Nikolai's valet, Piotr, who "stands at the peak of civilization" for the role. Once Pavel leaves, Bazarov laughs to himself about the idiocy of the entire affair, about the meaningless kiss he gave Fenichka, and Pavel's asinine gallantry. "What a comedy we played," he muses, "like trained dogs dancing on their hind legs."

Bazarov starts a letter to his parents, but tears it up thinking that if something happens to him, they will hear about it soon enough. He finally decides that nothing is going to happen to him anyway. He goes in search of Piotr and tells him to report to him early the next morning for some urgent business. That night he has many strange dreams concerning himself, Madame Odintsova, Pavel, and Fenichka.

Piotr wakes them up at four and they leave for the dueling place. Piotr is frightened when he learns the true purpose of the trip. Bazarov sees some workers who are also up this early and feels how useless his trip is compared to the workers who are going to do something worthwhile.

Up to the last minute, Bazarov jokes about Piotr's abject fear and the absurdity of the entire episode. But Pavel is in the deepest earnest about the duel. Pavel fires and the bullet barely grazes Bazarov's ear. He returns the shot and hits Pavel in the thigh. When Pavel reminds Bazarov that each is entitled to another shot, Bazarov dismisses him and assumes the role of the doctor tending to Pavel's wound.

Bazarov must first calm Piotr in order to send him to the house after help. Pavel is impressed with Bazarov's honorable actions. Piotr returns with Nikolai, who is dreadfully upset. Pavel gallantly assumes full responsibility for the duel and insists that he insulted Bazarov in such a way that Bazarov was forced to fight.

Later, the household is totally disrupted, and Fenichka makes every possible attempt to avoid Bazarov. Nikolai apologizes for Pavel's action, but he never discovers the real cause of the duel. Bazarov stifles Pavel's attempts to be magnanimous and as he departs, he calls back "damned feudalists," over his shoulder.

While Pavel is convalescing, there is a great deal of tension in the house. Fenichka can hardly face Pavel, and only the old retainer, Prokofitch, who remembered duels from the old days, is not disturbed by the event. Pavel finally calls Fenichka to his room and asks her if she feels no guilt about what she has done. Fenichka answers that it was not her fault and that she could not stop Bazarov from doing what he did. She maintains that she loves Nikolai very much and would die immediately if he thought she was unfaithful. At this point, Nikolai enters and is surprised and pleased when Fenichka openly throws herself into his arms.

After Fenichka leaves the room, Pavel tells his brother that he should do his duty to Fenichka by marrying her and making their relationship decent. Nikolai is astonished at his brother whom he has "always considered the most inflexible opponent of such marriages." Nikolai is overjoyed at this change in Pavel and warmly embraces his brother.

Left alone, Pavel's eyes are moist and he decides that he must go away as soon as he regains his health. "Illuminated by the glaring daylight, his handsome, gaunt head lay on the white pillow like the head of a dead man — and he was, in effect, a dead man."

Analysis

This chapter presents the duel between Bazarov and Pavel. It should be noted that some months earlier, Bazarov would never have consented to the duel. Because it implies standing up for one's honor or principles a duel is in direct opposition to anything a nihilist could advocate. Besides this, dueling for the sake of honor is the height of romanticism. Bazarov, then, accepts out of a sense of boredom and disquiet. However, he does refuse to go so far as to carry a letter in his pocket blaming himself, because "it is just a little like a French romance." As an alternative, he suggests using Piotr.

Thus, we see now why Turgenev has emphasized that Piotr is the emancipated servant because only as such could he possibly function in the role of a witness. Note also that after Pavel leaves, Bazarov admits how foolish it all was, but feels that under the circumstances, it was impossible to refuse Pavel. Furthermore, he knows that the cause of the duel resulted from the fact that he was seen kissing Fenichka. For a "nihilist," this reason only adds to the absurdity of the event.

The next day, Piotr proves not to be as "emancipated" as he thought himself: the duel virtually terrifies him. While waiting, Bazarov, who has always emphasized the value of the practical in life, notices that some other men are up that early, but acknowledges that the others are going to some useful employment. Again, he feels the incongruity of his actions and his views.

After Pavel is wounded slightly, he tries to maintain the right for Bazarov to shoot again as was earlier agreed upon. Bazarov refuses and assumes the role of doctor. For the first time, Pavel realizes that a man as different from him as Bazarov can still be an honorable man. He is now impressed with what an honorable person Bazarov is. It is ironic that Bazarov had to participate in something so romantic and so alien to his beliefs as a duel before Pavel could see any worthy quality in him. That is, Bazarov had to perform something in Pavel's world before Pavel could evaluate Bazarov's importance.

Bazarov's main regret about the duel is that his work is now interrupted, and he expresses his disgust when he leaves by referring to the entire household as "damned feudalists." After he leaves, Pavel calls Nikolai to insist that he do "the right thing" and marry Fenichka. This move is made not because he has shifted from his aristocratic ideas of the impropriety of such a marriage, but because he is probably in love with Fenichka, and knows that she loves only Nikolai. He then is left alone without even the ability to dream. It was as though "Pavel was indeed a corpse."

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