Fathers and Sons | Study Guide

Ivan Turgenev

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Fathers and Sons | Chapter 5 | Summary



Bazarov wakes early in the morning, walks around the estate, unimpressed, and sets out with some servant boys in search of frogs, which he claims he wants to dissect. Meanwhile Arkady has a cup of tea with his father. Fenitchka claims too unwell to pour the tea, so a nervous Nikolai does it himself. Arkady senses Fenitchka is making herself slight to avoid embarrassment and assures his father they shouldn't be ashamed of their relationship. Arkady feels eager to befriend his father's lover and rushes off to tell Fenitchka so. When he returns, he delights in having discovered his newborn half brother and chastises his father for keeping the baby a secret.

Pavel joins the conversation and asks Arkady a few questions about Bazarov, discovering Bazarov's father was an army surgeon who served in their father's division. Arkady defines Bazarov as a nihilist, claiming Bazarov, like Arkady himself, "accepts nothing." Pavel retorts nihilists "respect nothing." When Bazarov returns shortly after, Pavel snidely remarks Bazarov "has no faith in principles, but he has faith in frogs."


Arkady's new beliefs are put to the test when he learns Nikolai and Fenitchka have a love child, his newborn half brother. Traditionally Arkady would have grounds for complaint as the child could possibly challenge him as sole heir to his father's estate. Rather than being upset, however, Arkady feels joy and easily welcomes Fenitchka and the baby into his family. Fenitchka, however, is shy and struggles in her new social standing. She spends most of her time hiding in her bedroom, emerging only to pour tea like a servant.

In this scene the first philosophical debate occurs between Pavel and Bazarov as representatives of the "old" and "new" Russia. Readers may infer the two opposing views represent the actual debate about Russian social changes in the middle of the century. Older generations, like Pavel's, wanted to uphold tradition, whereas younger generations wanted liberation and progress. Bazarov represents the most extreme liberal, the nihilist, who "regards everything from the critical point," accepts nothing, questions the value of everything, and as Pavel says "respects nothing."

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