Bazarov joins the others at tea, and Pavel begins interrogating Bazarov about his beliefs. Pavel makes derisive comments about Bazarov's admiration for the German scientists. Bazarov tells Pavel that he doesn't "believe" in anything, whether it be science, art or human institutions, but he does pay special attention to science because it "gives him the facts."
Pavel and Nikolai leave to go talk with the overseer, and both are upset over what they have heard from the young people. They can't understand why youth has rejected so much that the old people hold valuable. They are both perplexed, but of the two Pavel is angrier.
When the two of them are alone, Bazarov asks his friend Arkady if Pavel always acts the way he just has. He makes several derogatory comments about Pavel. Arkady defends him, maintaining that Pavel's life story demands some sympathy; then he proceeds to tell Pavel's life story.
Pavel was, in his youth, a "remarkably handsome" person who made women lose "their wits over him," and provoked men to call him a fop. He won fame for his daring feats and dexterity in athletics. Even though every woman in the country was at his feet, he once met an enigmatic noble lady who could never give herself to him entirely. She was not a particularly witty person nor exceptionally beautiful, but she did possess a bizarre and haunting appeal. Pavel was entranced by her, and after a prolonged affair, the mysterious lady grew tired of him. After she left him, he followed her through most of Europe, and for a short time they resumed their relationship. But when they separated this time, it was for good. For some time, Pavel mourned his loss. He resigned his position in the army and finally retired to his brother's farm, where he has lived ever since.
Thus, Arkady feels that one must judge Pavel with special consideration because his life has been so frustrated. Besides that, Pavel had been most generous in helping Nikolai financially whenever the need arose. Bazarov, rather than being sympathetic, is quite sarcastic and maintains that any person who allows himself to stake his life "on the card of women's love" is not a man but simply a "male animal." Arkady tries to explain that Pavel grew up in a different time, but Bazarov cynically maintains that "It's all romanticism, nonsense, rottenness, art." He prefers to go and look at some frogs or beetles.
The reader should be highly aware of the visual images presented in the first part of Chapter 6. The intent is to continue the development of the antagonism between Pavel and Bazarov. The visual image is that of Bazarov, who has just returned from collecting frogs in the marshes, extremely dirty and soiled as contrasted with the immaculately clean and precisely dressed Pavel. The sight of the filthy Bazarov entering the house is basically repulsive to the fastidious Pavel, whose "aristocratic nature was revolted by Bazarov's completely free and easy manner."
The argument between Pavel and Bazarov is a result of their basic views. Pavel dislikes Bazarov's lack of patriotism in paying too much homage to German scientists and not enough to Russians. Bazarov likes the Germans because they are scientific and rational, and far superior to the Russians on this count. Each encounter reveals how set and determined both Pavel and Bazarov are. This is about the only quality that they have in common: that is, that each is unbending in his view and each is determined that his way is the correct one.
There has been nothing in Pavel's past life that will enable him to understand Bazarov's point of view. Pavel has always accepted the value of art and music, and when he hears a young man saying that art is meaningless, he practically foams at the mouth with ire. Bazarov doesn't even believe in science as a general principle; only the individual objective experiment is important. Thus, up until now, Bazarov is the complete nihilist who believes in absolutely nothing.
Nikolai, like Pavel, is also disturbed, but he does not react as violently against the young people and instead, accepts the fact that the world is changing and that perhaps "the young people are cleverer."
When Bazarov later begins to attack Pavel as useless and aristocratic, Arkady tries to defend Pavel by narrating and explaining his uncle's background. Arkady wants Bazarov to feel some compassion for Pavel, a compassion built upon understanding why Pavel has developed into the type of person he now is. This ability to feel compassion for people and later to enter into wholesome relationships with people is a major point of distinction between Arkady and Bazarov.
Note again how Turgenev interferes in his story by addressing the reader directly, telling him that he will find Pavel's story in the next chapter. Thus, in Chapter 6, the main narrative is again interrupted in order to go into the background of one of the characters.
Chapter 7 tells the story of Pavel's life, and we see that he was a dashing young man. Because of a woman, or more accurately, because of a woman's rejection of him, he has suffered a great deal in his earlier life. This information is emphasized because later we will see that Bazarov has the same problem with Madame Odintsova. In fact, the description of the woman Pavel loved is quite similar to that of Madame Odintsova. Both women are enigmatic figures, perfectly pleasant during the day, but wracked with anguish when left to their own thoughts.
After hearing Pavel's story, Bazarov is cynical and ridicules any man who will allow himself to be so dominated by a woman. He has absolutely no sympathy for this type of man, thus the important consideration is that both Pavel and Bazarov have a similar type of experience with a similar type of woman, and both are affected in almost the same way by rejection.
Arkady tries to understand his uncle's position and through this understanding have some type of sympathy for the individual. But Bazarov maintains "that a person who stakes his whole life on the card of a woman's love, then withers and sinks to the point of becoming incapable of anything when that card is trumped — a person like that isn't a man, isn't a male." But ironically, Bazarov will stake almost his entire existence on the love of Madame Odintsova and when rejected will wither away to the point that he cannot work and cannot find himself in life. Arkady, on the contrary, will be seen to have sympathy for both Pavel's and Bazarov's plight. This is a basic difference developing between the two young men.