Fathers and Sons By Ivan Turgenev Summary and Analysis Chapters 8-9

Summary

Nikolai and Pavel go to speak to the overseer; Pavel realizes that his brother is not handling the farm correctly but is unable to point out any errors in the management. Even though he has in the past been able to supply money for running the farm, at the present moment he has no extra money to spare and therefore he leaves his brother. Pavel goes to talk to Fenichka, but she is afraid of the cold and distant "aristocratic gentleman."

Pavel wants to see the child and Fenichka goes to bring it. Pavel notes that Fenichka keeps a very neat and orderly house. When she returns with the child, Pavel admires it and Nikolai arrives. Pavel immediately leaves Nikolai, who remembers how he had met his mistress. He had once stopped for an evening at an inn and found it exceptionally well kept and neat. He asked the innkeeper's domestic servant to come and be his housekeeper. The woman agreed and brought her young daughter, Fenichka, with her. After a few years, the woman died of cholera, leaving the young girl alone. Nikolai, who had grown fond of Fenichka, asked her to remain and be his companion.

Meanwhile, Pavel has returned to his study, where he stares at the ceiling "with an almost desperate expression."

The same day, Bazarov also meets Fenichka. He is out in the arbor with Arkady and notices that Fenichka is a very pretty girl. Arkady is pleased for his father's sake, because as Bazarov says, Nikolai is no fool for attaching himself to this girl. Bazarov plays with the child and enjoys it very much.

As Bazarov and Arkady leave, they discuss the miserable condition of the farm. They discuss various views of nature, and Bazarov rejects the romantic conception of nature being a temple, and calls it instead a workshop in which man can work and educate himself As they approach the house, they hear someone playing Schubert's "Die Erwartung" on the cello, and when Bazarov discovers that it is Nikolai playing it, he bursts out laughing over the incongruous fact of a country farmer in a distant province playing such a piece of classical music.

Analysis

Fenichka's character is developed in these two chapters. Turgenev interrupts the story again in order to give her background, which allows the reader to understand something of the social distinction between her and Nikolai. Fenichka is described in terms of the clean and wholesome Russian peasant, and is in many ways similar to Bazarov's mother in her attention to the basic womanly duties. She is completely subservient to the man who has taken her as his mistress. Perhaps we can say she has yielded with dignity.

The story of Fenichka is presented in contrast to Pavel's story. Thus, we see immediately how far apart the two are. It is at first glance a condescending step for Pavel to go to Fenichka's room, but ultimately, we discover that Pavel is attracted to Fenichka because she bears a strange resemblance to the lady Pavel once loved. Thus, in this chapter we have subtle hints about Pavel's true feelings when Turgenev writes that Pavel looked at Fenichka almost sadly. Fenichka is so simple and basic that she can never perceive Pavel's true feelings and Pavel is too much of a gentleman to reveal them. Thus, later, when Pavel fights the due] with Bazarov, he does so not just to protect his brother's honor, but because he cannot tolerate the idea of Bazarov kissing a woman whom he also admires.

Chapter 8 ends with Pavel sitting alone in his room with his elegant carpets and his distressing loneliness. The description is that of a lost man from the romantic world pathetically clinging to his illusions in an entirely too "real" world.

Bazarov seems to have a natural talent with the peasants and with anyone who cannot contradict his opinions. When he meets Fenichka and her baby, she allows him to handle the child, but when Arkady tries to handle the baby, it puts up a fight. The touching and "sentimental" scene in which Bazarov idly plays with a child is perhaps intended to give us a hint that even the supremely aloof Bazarov has a hidden spring of tenderness dormant within him. Certainly we can credit Turgenev with subtly preparing us for the breakdown of Bazarov's cold exterior when he is confronted with Madame Odintsova.

Bazarov's nihilism is again revealed when he ridicules Arkady for feeling that Nikolai should marry Fenichka. Arkady actually thought he was being very advanced by advocating such a marriage, but Bazarov is even more advanced or liberal by believing that marriage is just a ridiculous institution that has no meaning. After this discussion, we note a trace of hostility between the friends.

Bazarov is also scornful of the fact that Arkady's father plays classical music on the cello. He finds it highly ridiculous that a 44-year-old father living in a distant Russian province should read classical literature and play classical music.

The reader should now begin to evaluate Bazarov and his views. We should see that Bazarov attacks almost everything about Arkady's family and estate. Basically, he is impolite and intolerant of things in Arkady's family. We should then, be constantly aware of the reactions of each of the young men, both to his own parents and to the other's parents. That is, Arkady could make criticisms later on of the type of people the Bazarovs are, but refrains from doing so. Bazarov makes no effort to conceal his contempt for Arkady's relatives.

At the end of Chapter 9, we have another hint that Arkady is not pleased with his friend. After Bazarov has been so critical of Pavel and Nikolai, Arkady feels a slight degree of separation. This will continue until Katya points out at the end that Arkady has finally broken completely from the influence that Bazarov exerted over him.

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