Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 16 | Summary



At Nikolskoe, an impressive home, Madame Odintsov tries to convince the young men to pay her a long visit, citing her sister's piano skills and card games with a neighbor as events to keep them entertained. Madame Odintsov's younger sister, Katerina Sergyevna Lokteva—Katya—enters the room with a basket full of flowers. Bazarov and Madame Odintsov argue about humanity, whether one person is truly different from another, with Arkady speaking up only to agree with Bazarov's points. Katya says nothing. When Princess X—, the aunt who lives with the young women, arrives in the room, her presence is acknowledged, but she is ignored. The neighbor, Porfiry Platonovitch, arrives to play cards. As they play, Madame Odintsov tries to pair Arkady with Katya, insisting he listen to her play the piano so she can be alone with Bazarov.

Later that night Arkady and Bazarov discuss the sisters, with Bazarov noting the potential in the reticent Katya rather than in her elder sister. Madame Odintsov thinks about Bazarov and how attracted she is to him. Having failed in love, Madame Odintsov feels something missing in her life, and the next morning she takes Bazarov on a walk she suggested the night before. They return looking refreshed and happy, a sight that causes Arkady a pang of jealousy, even though he passed a pleasant few hours with Katya.


This chapter serves to contrast Madame Odintsov and Katya, as well as to contrast Bazarov and Arkady. Initially both young men are interested in Madame Odintsov, primarily for her beauty and charm. Although she seems to represent everything Bazarov despises—order, aristocracy, wealth—he remains drawn to her, and surprisingly his "disorder" is one of the traits that attracts her to him. Although Madame Odintsov's life is indeed ordered, it is sometimes boring, and she must convince the young men their stay won't be "dull." She arranges for Katya to play the piano and a neighbor to play cards, hoping to appeal to each of her visitors' interests. Katya, on the other hand, cares little for appearances. She has no interest in impressing their guests, offering nothing to the philosophical conversation and ceasing to play the piano as soon as her selection is over. Indeed, it is not surprising Bazarov would find her appealing, for she seems more like a quieter version of himself. Unlike the other three, Katya doesn't seem to care what people think of her, and she lives life according to her own pleasures.

Bazarov and Arkady's characters are developed further as the reader sees Bazarov's ideals beginning to shake under Odintsov's influence. Although Bazarov originally calls Madame Odintsov "a grand duchess ... and not much else," he engages in conversation with her more deeply than with any other character thus far, he takes a walk with her to appreciate nature, and he plays cards with her neighbor, which seems like the kind of frivolous folly he would scorn. The reader also sees Arkady enjoying Katya's music. Despite having adopting Bazarov's nihilistic principles, Arkady continues to maintain traces of romanticism that haven't been fully quashed. Arkady is drawn to Katya's playing and to Mozart, a love of music probably inherited from his father and mother.

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