Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 27 | Summary



Bazarov returns home to his parents' delight, deciding to stay for six weeks to do research, if his parents agree not to disturb him. Vassily eagerly sets Bazarov up in his office, while Arina vows not to ask unnecessary questions or display extreme emotions that might make her son uncomfortable. She worries endlessly about what to feed him but refuses to ask his preference as it might annoy him. To busy himself Bazarov begins seeing local patients and reporting to his father, who is delighted his son has "got over his melancholy."

One afternoon Bazarov surprises his father by asking for a caustic iron to burn a cut in his finger. He received the cut while performing an autopsy on a patient who died of typhus, a thought that horrifies Bazarov's father. He treats his son's wound and hovers over him for days in search of symptoms of the disease. On the third day Bazarov admits to having no appetite and suffering from fever and chills. Heartbroken Vassily recognizes his son will soon die but refuses to admit it to himself. The next day Bazarov himself weakly admits death is near. He shows his horrified father a red rash on his arms, another telltale sign of the sickness and asks his father to send Madame Odintsov a letter informing her of his impending death. Vassily weeps and begs Bazarov to comfort his mother by showing her love, knowing the loss will devastate her.

Madame Odintsov arrives with a German doctor and rushes to Bazarov's bedside. When he sees her, Bazarov asserts again he loved her desperately and because she's so young and beautiful she shouldn't waste time thinking about him after he's dead. Madame Odintsov seems genuinely heartbroken, sitting close to Bazarov and touching his face without a glove, even though the illness is highly contagious. Bazarov says goodbye, falls asleep, and never wakes up. Vassily and Arina collapse in devastation.


In the wake of his heartbreak Bazarov has lashed out at everyone close to him: his parents, Arkady, and now himself. It's unclear exactly why Bazarov treated the infected corpse with such disregard for safety, but it's obvious contracting typhus could have been prevented. As a man of science, Bazarov knows how contagious the disease is and how to prevent it, yet either because of depression or disregard, Bazarov worked carelessly. A nihilist believes in destroying everything, and Bazarov has allowed love to destroy his spirit.

Bazarov transitions fully from nihilist to romantic as death approaches. Whereas he previously ran away from difficult situations and emotions, he cannot run from death. When faced with the imminence of his death, his facade of nihilism breaks away and he admits, "Death's an old joke, but it comes fresh to everyone." Whatever inkling of unhappiness he felt when faced with his parents' happiness in Chapter 22 now becomes complete despair. He forsakes nihilism and embraces romanticism, although it's too late to offer him any happiness.

When he admits he has contracted typhus, Bazarov writes a letter to Madame Odintsov telling her of his impending death. This is the polar opposite of how he felt about letter writing before the duel, when he simply said of his parents, "If I die ... they will find it out." When Madame Odintsov arrives, Bazarov gushes about her beauty and how unhappy he feels about dying without her kiss. When speaking to his father Bazarov rejects the religious practice of final rites, but he knows how his parents value the symbol, so he gives them permission to have it administered after his death. Bazarov realizes the happiness he might have felt if he hadn't pushed everyone away, but unfortunately he realizes it too late.

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