Fathers and Sons By Ivan Turgenev Summary and Analysis Chapters 2-3

Summary

Arkady has brought a friend from the university with him whom he introduces as Bazarov. Nikolai is pleased to receive any friend of his son and asks to be informed of his "christian name and patronymic," which is Yevgeny Vassilievitch. Bazarov is tall and thin with a peaceful smile that suggests a degree of self-confidence. He holds himself aloof and does not strike one as being overly friendly on first glance.

Arkady and his father get in the buggy while Bazarov must ride in another conveyance and they depart for the farm. On the way home, Arkady is filled with Joy at being reunited with his father again, but he keeps the conversation on a prosaic level so as to discourage his father from becoming over-emotional. Thus, they discuss only the more mundane subjects and Arkady tells Nikolai how important his friendship with Bazarov is. Arkady is convinced that Bazarov is an intellectual giant and wants great care taken of him.

As they drive home, they discuss the problems that Nikolai has encountered during the year that they have been separated. Nikolai has been changing his farm system, trying to remove the serfs and establish them as tenant farmers (or a type of share cropper.)

Nikolai is very sentimental about the farm and the place where his son was born, but Arkady cuts him by saying that it makes no difference where a man is born, indicating an anti-romantic view. Nikolai is somewhat astonished by his son's statement and does not immediately recover.

Nikolai tries to warn his son that one of the servants is now living in the house — the young Fenichka — and tries to apologize for living with this person of "inferior rank." Nikolai expects his son to be shocked, and is surprised when Arkady expresses himself so liberally as to give the impression of not caring in the least that his father has taken a mistress. Nikolai wonders if this fact won't embarrass their guest, Bazarov, but Arkady assures him that Bazarov is a person not to be anxious about.

As they reach the farm, Arkady notices that the place has fallen into a state of degeneration. Soon they arrive at the farmhouse, which Nikolai calls "Marino."

Analysis

The extent of devotion between Nikolai and Arkady is seen in their greetings. There is no tension between them at the present moment and later we will observe that the tension that does develop will be caused largely by Bazarov.

To understand the meaning of Nikolai's question "May I know your Christian name and patronymic?" see the section on the meaning of Russian names.

Note again that Piotr follows his role of the emancipated servant because he refuses to kiss his master's hand in the fashion of the older servants and only bows to Arkady.

At the beginning of the novel and the ride to the estate, Bazarov is separated from Arkady and Nikolai, and must ride in a separate vehicle. Thus at the beginning, Nikolai and his son are together while Bazarov is the outsider. But gradually through the next chapters, we will see a growing separation between Nikolai and Arkady and a closer connection between the two young people. Ultimately, however, Arkady and his father will emerge as the true companions.

On the ride back to the farm, we see the portending separation between father and son. For example, Nikolai thinks that Arkady should be very excited to be returning to his old birthplace, but Arkady cuts his father by saying that it makes no difference where a man is born. After this interchange, there is silence for a long part of the journey. The technique of this small scene is also important. It is presented objectively and dramatically with no author comment or intrusion.

Nikolai brings up the important subject of Fenichka. Arkady's reaction is important because his father is over-apologetic about this somewhat unorthodox relationship, but Arkady feels that he has advanced beyond such insignificant moral discriminations and is filled "with a half-secretive feeling of superiority towards his good, softhearted father."

Turgenev continues to build this contrast between the two generations as Nikolai, the father, looks at the landscape and begins to quote from a Pushkin poem. Pushkin was the father of Russian romanticism and is later the butt of ridicule by Bazarov. Thus, Nikolai is grounded not only in romantic poetry but in the cultural past of Russia, while the young people want to discard all the past.

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