Summary and Analysis Chapter 17



Arkady and Bazarov spend a very pleasant two weeks in the "orderly household" of Madame Odintsova. Bazarov at first complains that this strictly regulated existence violates his sense of democracy. Madame Odintsova parries that without order in a country life one would be conquered by boredom.

Apparently unrequited in his feelings for Madame Odintsova, Arkady seeks consolation by spending his time with the young Katya. The two young people play the piano, read stories together, and observe nature, but Arkady is determined that no sentimental emotions will influence him.

Meanwhile Bazarov is maddened by the strange feelings he has toward Madame Odintsova because he realizes that he is totally unable to subdue these emotions. At the same time, Bazarov occupies Madame Odintsova's thoughts constantly. While Bazarov is contemplating his relationship with Madame Odintsova and realizing the futility of it, his father's old retainer, Timofeich, drops by for a visit. Bazarov wonders if his parents have sent the retainer and sends word that he will soon be home for a visit.

That evening, Bazarov surprises Madame Odintsova by announcing his intentions of leaving soon. She recalls to him that he has promised to teach her some chemistry and help her in other pursuits. She assures him that he will be missed and that she will be quite bored when he leaves. Bazarov sarcastically suggests that she can return to her ordered and quiet life and will not be affected by the departure of such an insignificant person. Upon further entreaties, Bazarov asks Madame Odintsova why a woman with "your intelligence, with your beauty," lives in the country. She makes some observations about her life and assures her new friend that she is very unhappy. She has lived so much in the world that she no longer finds many things to interest her. She wishes that she could actually get strongly attached to something, and Bazarov counters by telling her that she is incapable of falling in love. Secretly, he thinks that she is being flirtatious at this moment and is quite disturbed. As Bazarov prepares to leave, she tries to restrain him, but he presses her hand rather hard and quickly leaves.

After his departure, Madame Odintsova sat for a long time before she went to bed. Bazarov, however, walked for two hours before he went to bed. Arkady tries to question his friend about his whereabouts, but becomes so emotionally disturbed that he cannot speak clearly.


Note that Bazarov has finally let his guard drop and he is affected by something outside of himself. Anxiety begins to appear and he changes significantly. This is one of the most crucial chapters of the novel because Bazarov's inner nature conflicts with his intellectual nature for the first time. Love in the romantic sense has always been mere tomfoolery to him, but now he seems captured by Odintsova. He lacked the "strength to turn his back on her."

The two pairs of lovers almost seem star-crossed. Arkady thinks that he is in love with Odintsova but more and more he is attracted by Katya's charm. Arkady is as yet still unaware of many things about himself. "Without noticing or confessing to himself that such nonsense interests him too," he is aroused or affected somewhat by the music, poetry, etc. Furthermore, he thinks that he is in love with Madame Odintsova, but feels uncomfortable in her presence. On the contrary, he is quite at ease with Katya.

Intellectually, Bazarov still continues to fight any feelings of love. He still believes that "love in the ideal sense, or, as he expressed it, the romantic sense, was nonsense — an unforgivable stupidity." But nevertheless, "his blood began to burn as soon as he thought of her." His change is even noticed by Arkady, who begins to lose faith in his friend. He noticed that Bazarov spoke more reluctantly, and often looked angry and more than anything else, Bazarov fidgeted and looked ill at ease. Bazarov had always maintained that "If you take a fancy to a woman, try to gain your end or leave her." But with Madame Odintsova, he knows that he can never gain his end, and yet he can't leave her either. Thus, as noted earlier, he is trapped in love in the same way as was Pavel, but the difference between them is that Bazarov condemns himself later almost as much as he condemned Pavel. His failure to see the similarities in the situations is perhaps a flaw in his character,

The more human aspect of Bazarov's nature is seen when the old Bazarov servant comes to inquire about him. Bazarov dismisses the servant as soon as possible, but nevertheless, we see that he is affected by the desires of his parents. If Arkady had shown the same desire to respect the wishes of his parents, Bazarov would have criticized him severely. Thus, gradually, we note more and more of a change in the nihilist.

Philosophically, according to nihilism, Bazarov should be the person who can live totally alone, without dependence on another person. Yet in this chapter, we see that it is more Madame Odintsova who can and who will be able to live without love or human companionship. Suddenly, we realize that in this respect, she is more the nihilist than "Mr. Nihilist" himself, who craves the company and love of Madame Odintsova. But at the same time, her life is also similar to that of Pavel's because she has indeed experienced so many things in the past and has traveled and done so many things that she expects no new adventure. But Bazarov philosophically believes that there is no such thing as a new experience in the same way that he believes that there is no new birch tree.

The breach between Arkady and Bazarov is heightened at the end of the chapter as their separation is caused by the two ladies. Arkady is still jealous of the time that Madame Odintsova spends with Bazarov, even though he thoroughly enjoys the hours he spends with Katya.

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