Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 20 | Summary



The two friends arrive at Bazarov's parents house where Bazarov's father, Vassily Ivanovitch Bazarov, warmly embraces his long-absent son. Bazarov's mother, Arina Vlassevna Bazarov, nearly collapses with emotion as she embraces her son: "The only sound heard was her broken sobs." Apologizing to Arkady saying she thought she would die without ever seeing her darling son again, Arina Vlassevna rushes off to the kitchen to prepare the young men a meal. Vassily shows Arkady to his room, apologizing for not having something more comfortable than the tiny lodge, but Bazarov tells him to forego formalities.

Sitting in his office later Vassily tries to impress his son with all the reading he's done in the three years since they last saw each other, but Bazarov isn't impressed. Although Vassily doesn't understand how Bazarov can turn his nose up at science, despite wanting to be a doctor, he's clearly proud of his intelligent son. The somewhat awkward conversation is interrupted by the announcement of dinner. Arina has made a true feast despite not having the beef she would normally serve special guests. She spends the entire meal staring lovingly at Bazarov but too afraid to speak to him.

Arina Vlassevna is described in detail as "a genuine Russian gentlewoman of the olden times; she ought to have lived two centuries before." She is emotional, religious, superstitious, and kindhearted, knowing her place both at home and in the world. Somewhat educated, she excels in domestic rather than intellectual life and long ago entrusted her husband with managing her inherited property.


This chapter reveals the similarities between Bazarov's and Arkady's home lives, furthering the theme of the generational gap. Like Nikolai at Maryino, Bazarov's parents are concerned with the social expectations of housing a guest. They worry about their emotions, the food, and the room in which Arkady will stay. Like Arkady in Chapter 3, Bazarov insists his parents forego the formalities. Also, similar to Nikolai, Vassily hopes to impress his son with the reading he's done, eager to prove he still has a connection to his son. Perhaps because the reader already has witnessed similar interactions at Maryino, Bazarov's dismissal of Vassily feels even colder than Arkady's dismissal of Nikolai.

The description of Bazarov's mother further illustrates her son's character. Arina represents everything Bazarov rejects: passionate emotion, strict gender roles, religious faith, and superstition. Although Bazarov appeared interested in visiting his parents, he shuns them nearly as soon as he arrives. He ignores his mother's joy at his return, offering no kindness as she cries and rejoices. Similarly he dismisses everything his father says about literature and medicine. In previous chapters Bazarov claimed he valued only science, but now he claims to reject even the authority of medicine. While some of his attitude can be attributed to heartbreak over Madame Odintsov, it appears Bazarov is pushing back harder against his emotions than before because he is angry with himself. Thus he comes across as more selfish, disagreeable, and unlikeable than before.

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