Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 13 | Summary



The three men arrive unannounced at Madame Kukshin's house. With "rather disheveled" hair and a "not perfectly tidy" silk dress, Madame Kukshin, separated from her husband, is reclining on her sofa reading newspaper clippings. As soon as the men arrive, she launches into conversation about a variety of progressive political topics, eager to show off her knowledge. Immediately Bazarov feels repulsed by her and her seemingly phony liberal appearance.

Over a large lunch and four bottles of champagne, the group carries on a lengthy conversation about current events and politics. Madame Kukshin seems particularly concerned with dismissing other Russian women, like her friend Anna Sergyevna Odintsov, a wealthy widow whom Madame Kukshin views as liberated but empty-headed. After the meal the men leave. Sitnikov feels proud to have introduced Bazarov to a woman he views as interesting and intellectual, but Bazarov doesn't share his friend's views.


Madame Kukshin, much like Sitnikov, represents liberal youth who adopt progressive views for appearances rather than true belief. In an instance of situational irony, Madame Kukshin complains women like her friend Madame Odintsov are beautiful but poorly educated at the same time as she—Madame Kukshin—passes off superficial news headlines as her own thoughts. When pressed for deeper insight into the topics, Madame Kukshin changes the subject, suggesting her viewpoints are merely for show. Although she is eager to impress the young men with her knowledge, it's immediately clear she hasn't reached her views on her own.

Bazarov expresses disgust with Madame Kukshin, particularly because she indulges in a lavish lifestyle with rich foods and abundant champagne. Readers may infer they should feel as Bazarov does, on the basis of the character's disheveled hair, untidy dress, and intellectual pretensions. In describing Madame Kukshin, Turgenev criticizes those who join popular political movements for show or for other superficial reasons and spout ideologies without educating themselves about them. Although Bazarov is rude and selfish, he understands and believes in his views.

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