Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 18 | Summary



The next morning Bazarov and Madame Odintsov barely look at each other over breakfast. Madame Odintsov retires to her room and doesn't emerge until lunch. Everyone can feel the tension between the two, and under the pretext of asking for a chemistry book recommendation, Madame Odintsov asks Bazarov to her office to speak privately. There she demands to know why Bazarov won't confide in her the issue so obviously bothering him. Anguished Bazarov tries to deflect the question but finally blurts out, "I love you like a fool, like a madman ... There, you've forced it out of me." Shocked Madame Odintsov notices Bazarov's entire body trembling with passion "not unlike hatred, and perhaps akin to it." Bazarov boldly walks across the room and pulls Madame Odintsov into his arms, but she pushes him away. Embarrassed Bazarov bolts from the room, leaving Madame Odintsov to consider her actions. Although she didn't expect Bazarov's declaration, she feels guilty for encouraging the relationship, knowing it might have led to this.


This chapter provides a turning point in Bazarov and Madame Odintsov's relationship. The reader has learned Madame Odintsov suffered many hardships in her life before arriving at her current state. She lost both parents, her family wealth, and later her husband. She has been the subject of gossip and has few friends. Now she runs an orderly estate that offers her and her sister financial security. To create peace—the condition with which she is most comfortable—she lives her life with a strict schedule, always knowing what to expect. Therefore, Bazarov's unexpected declaration takes her aback, and his emotions threaten to upend her carefully constructed existence.

Although Madame Odintsov clearly would welcome love and excitement, when faced with the possibilities of either she retreats. Perhaps she is too selfish to receive love, or perhaps too many hardships have caused her to be insensitive. Or perhaps she is confused about what she wants and has chosen Bazarov, the nonbeliever in all things, as a person to question about emotions and beliefs—an odd choice. Perhaps she sees a less developed version of herself in him.

For whatever reason, though, it is clear Bazarov knows his love for Odintsov is unreciprocated, and this knowledge makes him feel even more foolish. He previously told Arkady if a man were attracted to a woman he should, "take their aim and then leave them." Bazarov essentially means men should sleep with the woman and then abandon her. This clearly won't happen with Madame Odintsov, for Bazarov finds himself unable to abandon her. He will spend the rest of the novel returning to her again and again without satisfaction.

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