Summary and Analysis
After the discussion about the "nihilists," Nikolai realizes that despite all his efforts he is more alienated from his son than ever before. He muses on the beauty of nature and poetry and is disappointed that the younger generation has rejected all of this. He dreams of his past happiness and of his wife; he further laments that he can't relive these individual happy moments; that they cannot be extended for an eternal, immortal life.
Suddenly, Fenichka brings him back to reality by calling to him to come to the house. On his way back he meets Pavel who also seems preoccupied. Pavel, not born a romantic, is not capable of dreaming like Nikolai, and thus lives in a more barren world.
The same night, Bazarov suggests that they take up Nikolai's suggestion and go visit Arkady's uncle who is a privy-counselor for a neighboring town. They leave the next day, and "the younger people at Marino were sorry to see them go . . . but the elders breathed more easily."
Unlike Pavel, who point-blank rejects all the ideas of the younger generation, Nikolai has made some effort to understand the point of view of the young people He did live with them in St. Petersburg and has read what they have read, but he has still failed to understand the modern point of view.
He is trying to see what good can come from their ideas. He wonders if their value can be that they have "fewer traces of feudalism" than the older generation. This is an important point because Nikolai is freeing his serfs and trying to discard the old feudalistic method of managing his land.
Nikolai's final puzzlement is how could the young people reject totally the arts and poetry and all literature. Of course, this would be Turgenev's point of view, since he is creating literature and immediately after having Nikolai query about the nihilist rejection of poetry, Turgenev gives us a magnificently poetic passage describing the area surrounding the arbor. But as we progress in this chapter and as Nikolai loses himself in daydreams about past happiness, Turgenev is slightly critical of Nikolai. If we look closely at Nikolai, we see that he is sadly lacking in the practical sense it takes to run a farm. He needs someone to help him break from the romantic dream world and come to terms with the real world. Thus, Turgenev criticizes both the "nihilist" who rejects everything and the romantic like Nikolai who lives so much in a romantic world that he allows himself to be subdued by the practical considerations of everyday life. His utter romanticism is seen as he ends his reveries with tears in his eyes, and we are reminded of the contrast by the statement that these tears in Bazarov's view would be "a hundred times worse than the cello."
In contrast to Nikolai, the romantic dreamer, Pavel, who was not "a born romantic" in the sentimental sense of the term, is seen as possessing an "exquisitely dry and sensual soul." The comparison leaves Nikolai the more admirable figure of the two.
At the end of the chapter, we see the two young people about to leave Marino to visit Arkady's uncle. Arkady is delighted to do this but "considered it his duty to conceal his feelings. Not for nothing was he a nihilist." Again this gives us a hint that Arkady is not and can never be the true "nihilist."
With the departure from Marino, we have the end of the first cycle of the novel. We now move to a different scene and see the young "nihilists" in other surroundings. The reader should keep in mind a touch of sentimentalism appearing in Bazarov in his reasons for going to visit his parents. And we should also remember Bazarov's relationship with Arkady's father and compare this later with his relationship with his own father.