Fathers and Sons, part two


The Tea Time Debate (81- 90) (review):


Pavel Petrovich


Enlightened principes:

  • Natural rights of the individual: life, liberty, and property
  •  Man in the state of nature: rational and good
  • Universal law and ideals: truth, beauty, and justice
  • Essential importance of free will: you can choose to adopt this philosophy… or not (and if you don’t, it’s your fault)
  • Aristocracy as natural leader of society because they model personal responsibility, duty, and values based on high education
  • Progress= Slow, incremental change

Social justice:

  • Social Rights: jobs, health, education, housing, pensions
  • Man in the state of nature: tabula rasa
  • Enough philosophizing about ‘ideals’ Let’s deal with the specific problems of the here and now with practical science
  • Determinism: people are like trees: healthy or ill. Reform society by cutting out the diseased trees. (Chapter 16) (132)
  • Revolutionary Intelligentsia as authoritarian leader
  • Progress= revolution
  • The liberal path of incremental change is a mask for continued exploitation and corruption




What is Turgenev’s response?


Look at Nikolai’s response to the squabble. His immediate response is to think of arguments he had with his mother when he had been young:

"Do you know what I was reminded of, brother? I once quarreled with our mother; she shouted and wouldn't listen to me. At last I said to her, 'Of course you can't understand me; we belong to two different generations.' She was terribly offended, but I thought, 'It can't be helped--a bitter pill, but she has to swallow it.' So now our turn has come, and our successors can tell us: 'You don't belong to our generation; swallow your pill.'" (Chapter 10) (90)

He goes outside to sit and watch the beautiful sunset. He enjoys the setting and begins to think about his dead wife, recalling the first time they met. He thinks about Fenetchka, and then tears come to his eyes.  He thinks to himself how Bazarov would make fun him, sitting and crying under the evening sky. (94-96)


What is your judgment of Nikolai?



Bazarov’s and Arkady’s Trip to Town


Turgenev’s cross-section of the other political responses available during the 1860’s. (All discarded.)


1. Matthew Ilich Kolyazin (Chapter 12) (99-100) : the government inspector. Where have we seen this type before? He of the impeccable manners and healthy laugh who is in reality a power crazed tyrant right out of Gogol. He delights in humiliating subordinates (101) yet prides himself on having the most modern ideas. (101)  He is an ‘enlightened sensualist’. He invites Arkady and Bazarov to the governor’s ball that night.


2. Herr Sitnikov (Chapter 12) (103): the fashionable Slavophile. How is he characterized? His visiting card? French and Slavic print on either side. His father? A tax farmer who has made his fortune profiting from vodka sales. He suggests that all three of them go visit the local feminist, Eudoxie Kukshina (104) (107 -08)


3. Eudoxie Kukshina (Chapter 13): How does she behave at the luncheon she hosts?  The champagne addled, cigar smoking feminist. She is like one of those bobble head dolls she describes. “Everything about her seems made up.” She name drops western anarchists, alludes to Emerson, Fourier, Proudhon and Bakunin, then proceeds to get complete smashed (at lunchtime). The Drunken Luncheon: Turgenev’s withering parody of radical western ideologies: they only give you permission to act like this. No government! Freedom will solve all!


Bazarov’s Response? What does he think of Eudoxie’s banter and her liberated lifestyle? He mentions at one point that “A whip is a good thing.” (113) His interest, though, does pick up when Eudoxie starts talking about her acquaintance with the beauty, Odintsova. (111) Eventually, he gets up and walks out without saying thanks or goodbye. (114)


How can we distinguish Bazarov’s radicalism from Eudoxie’s brand of utopian socialism?


She is into radicalism for personal reasons: to assert freedom from conventional social roles. Bazarov would never put up with this nonsense if he and his compatriots were to actually gain power. (“She’s a bloody freak.”) In opposition to Bakunin’s libertarian anarchism, Bazarov believes in a strong government authority. He distrusts individual liberty. Structure will save society.


The Governor’s Ball (Chapter 14) (115-120)


Odintsova’s and Bazarov’s romance dramatizes the crux of Turgenev’s view about the debate between liberal and radical. Odintsova, far more effectively than the Kirsanov brothers, represents the sensible and grounded self-interest of the liberal Russian aristocracy, shorn of its pie in the sky idealism. Bazarov intrigues her though because of the fresh strength and charisma associated with his radical demand for social justice. Imagine the Russia that would have emerged from their successful union! Turgenev, though, is Russian. He does not believe in happy endings.


1. First impressions of Odintsova (Chapter 14)


What about her do Arkady and Bazarov find so striking? (116-118)

Arkady looked round and saw a tall woman in a black dress standing near the door. He was struck by her dignified bearing. Her bare arms lay gracefully across her slim waist; light sprays of fuchsia hung from her shining hair over her sloping shoulders; her clear eyes looked out from under a prominent white forehead; their expression was calm and intelligent--calm but not pensive--and her lips showed a scarcely perceptible smile. A sort of affectionate and gentle strength emanated from her face….

"What a striking figure," Bazarov said. "She's not like the other females." (116-17)

Arkady immediately falls in love with her. She is calm. Elegant, poised, and well mannered, even if slightly condescending. She comes and sits with Arkady. Why? He came in with Bazarov. His response? Yowzah! Look at those shoulders! Like ice cream. (120)

2. Odintsova’s Biography (Chapter 15) (122-124)

Anna Sergeyevna Odintsova was the daughter of Sergei Nikolayevich Loktev, notorious for his personal beauty, speculations and gambling, who after fifteen years of a stormy and sensational life in Petersburg and Moscow, ended by ruining himself completely at cards and was obliged to retire to the country, where soon afterwards he died, leaving a very small property to his two daughters--Anna, a girl of twenty at that time, and Katya, a child of twelve. Their mother, who belonged to an impoverished princely family, had died in Petersburg while her husband was still in his heyday. Anna's position after her father's death was a very difficult one. The brilliant education which she had received in Petersburg had not fitted her for the cares of domestic and household economy--nor for an obscure life buried in the country. She knew no one in the whole neighborhood, and there was no one she could consult. Her father had tried to avoid all contact with his neighbors; he despised them in his way and they despised him in theirs. However, she did not lose her head, and promptly sent for a sister of her mother's, Princess Avdotya Stepanovna X.--a spiteful, arrogant old lady who, on installing herself in her niece's house, appropriated the best rooms for herself, grumbled and scolded from morning till night and refused to walk a step, even in the garden, without being attended by her one and only serf, a surly footman in a threadbare pea-green livery with light-blue trimming and a three-cornered hat. Anna patiently put up with all her aunt's caprices, gradually set to work on her sister's education and, it seemed, was already reconciled to the idea of fading away in the wilderness . . . But fate had decreed otherwise. She happened to be seen by a certain Odintsov, a wealthy man of forty-six, an eccentric hypochondriac, swollen, heavy and sour, but not stupid and quite good-natured; he fell in love with her and proposed marriage. She agreed to become his wife, and they lived together for six years; then he died, leaving her all his property. For nearly a year after his death Anna Sergeyevna remained in the country; then she went abroad with her sister, but stayed only in Germany; she soon grew tired of it and came back to live at her beloved Nikolskoe, nearly thirty miles from the town of X. Her house was magnificent, luxuriously furnished and had a beautiful garden with conservatories; her late husband had spared no expense to gratify his wishes. Anna Sergeyevna rarely visited the town, and as a rule only on business; even then she did not stay long. She was not popular in the province; there had been a fearful outcry when she married Odintsov; all sorts of slanderous stories were invented about her; it was asserted that she had helped her father in his gambling escapades and even that she had gone abroad for a special reason to conceal some unfortunate consequences . . . "You understand?" the indignant gossips would conclude. "She has been through fire and water," they said of her, to which a noted provincial wit added "And through the brass instruments." All this talk reached her, but she turned a deaf ear to it; she had an independent and sufficiently determined character.

Gambling parents, brilliant education, orphaned and forced to find her way on her own while supporting a younger sister. How?

She marries an older landowner who dies and leaves her independently wealthy, but the experience leaves her with no interest in romance. She no longer has any illusions about life. In short, she is the perfect match for the radical materialist Bazarov who would like to deny the existence of love: all that transpires between the sexes is purely chemical sex appeal.

Bazarov at first looks at Odintsova as nothing more than an attractive sex object, but later when she he chats with her in her hotel room and then at her manor Nikolskoe, he develops a surprising, powerful passion for her which, annoying enough as it is for a man who scoffs at love, becomes absolutely unbearable for Bazarov when it is unrequited. (138)

What is it about Odintsova that Bazarov finds so attractive? (Chapter 16)

Describe the routine of life at Nikolskoe: tidiness, order, clockwork routine, profit. (127-28) Everything is run on rails there. How is this farm run differently than the Kirsanov’s farm? She has a crazy aunt who is treated with respect. She has a charming younger sister who plays Mozart on the piano. A jolly, card playing neighbor drops by to check in on them. She has a beautiful Borzoi dog. And Odintsova prefers this company to fashionable society. Her life is based around the civilized routines of aristocratic life: art, music, and good manners. (136-37) (141-42)

"Yes," answered Bazarov, "a female with brains; and she's seen life too."

Bazarov did not care for this measured and rather formal regularity in daily life, like "gliding along rails" he called it (Chapter 17)

What is it about Bazarov that Odintsova finds so attractive? (Chapter 16) (136-38) (141)

His intelligence, clarity of thought, and radical materialism. His ideas are so radical! People are like trees in a forest. No personal distinctions between them are important. Cure their diseases (by cutting out the sick) and you cure the whole forest. It is the same with people.

The lungs of a consumptive person are not in the same condition as yours or mine, although their construction is the same. We know more or less what causes physical ailments; but moral diseases are caused by bad education, by all the rubbish with which people's heads are stuffed from childhood onwards, in short, by the disordered state of society. Reform society, and there will be no diseases. (131-32)

The radical determinist believes that the environment alone is the cause of illness in society, not moral weakness in people.

Why does their relationship fizzle instead of leaping to flame? (Compare these two with Arkady and Katya, whose flawed relationship may represent the best we can expect from life.)

Bazarov’s understanding of love is purely ideological: the romantic ideal is rubbish, unforgivable stupidity, pitiable, and he condemns himself as weak and unworthy of respect because he too is susceptible to emotion. Yet he cannot deny his passion for her. (141-42) (144-45)

Bazarov was very fond of women and of feminine beauty, but love in the ideal, or as he called it romantic, sense, he described as idiocy, unpardonable folly; he regarded chivalrous feelings as a kind of deformity or disease… [Yet] his blood was on fire directly he thought about her; he could easily have mastered bis blood, but something else was taking possession of him, something he had never allowed, at which he had always scoffed and at which his pride revolted.  (Chapter 17) (144)

Odintsova urges Bazarov to stay with him. She says that she’d be bored without him. She’s intrigued by his ambition and his potential. She flirts with the idea of happiness but she falls back on security.

She liked Bazarov for his absence of flattery and for his definite downright views. She found in him something new, which she had not met before, and she was curious… Had she not been rich and independent, she would probably have thrown herself into the struggle and experienced passion . . . But life ran easily for her, although she was sometimes bored, and she went on from day to day without hurrying and only rarely feeling disturbed. Rainbow-colored visions sometimes glowed before her eyes, but she breathed more peacefully when they faded away, and she did not hanker after them. (Chapter 16) (136-37)

"This doctor is a strange man," she repeated to herself. She stretched, smiled, clasped her hands behind her head, ran her eyes over two pages of a stupid French novel, dropped the book--and fell asleep, pure and cold in her clean and fragrant linen. (Chapter 16) (138)

She sees potential in him and flirts with the idea of linking her wealth with his ambition:

"Listen, I have long wanted to have a frank talk with you. There is no need to tell you--for you know it yourself--that you are not an ordinary person; you are still young--your whole life lies before you. For what are you preparing yourself? What future awaits you? I mean to say, what purpose are you aiming at, in what direction are you moving, what is in your heart? In short, who and what are you?" (Chapter 18) (157)

But when the moment of truth comes (153) (159), Odintsova balks. "You misunderstood me."

 No," she decided at last. "God alone knows what it would lead to; he couldn't be trifled with; after all, peace is better than anything else in the world." (Chapter 18) (160)