Nihilism in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons Essay

Words: 1697
Pages: 7

Nihilism in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons has several characters that hold strong views of the world. For example, Pavel believes that Russia needs structure from such things as institution, religion, and class hierarchy. On the other hand, Madame Odintzov views the world as simple so long as she keeps it systematic and free from interference.

This commentary will focus on perhaps the most interesting and complex character in Fathers and Sons: Bazarov.

Vladimir Nabakov writes that "Turgenev takes his creature [B] out of a self-imposed pattern and places him in the normal world of chance." By examining Bazarov I will attempt to make sense of this statement. Using nihilism as a starting point I am going look at Bazarov’s views and
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He finds himself in a world which he despises and discovers he must deny everything which results from this world. However, Bazarov’s self-imposed nihilism, which gives him the power to negate, is challenged by something we are all subjects to—chance.

When Bazarov meets Madame Odintzov we notice distress within our hero. Up to this point Bazarov has maintained his somewhat icy composure and easily passed the tests of his nihilist convictions. But now, chance deals Bazarov a new hand. By befriending Anna Odintzov, Bazarov comes up against feelings which he tries desperately to defeat. In the early stages he feels inspired and this feeling

"Tortured and maddened him" (169).

Later, sometimes unaware, Bazarov has fantasies wherein his lust for Anna is quite clear. Bazarov finds that despite his strength in other matters her is overwhelmed and consumed by these ‘shameful’ thoughts. Bazarov would

"stamp his feet or grind his teeth and shake his fist at himself" (170).

Even after all his teeth grinding and fist shaking, Bazarov cannot seem to cast off his growing passion.

"He was breathing heavily; his whole body trembled" (182).

It is interesting to watch this fight between Bazarov’s deeply held views of nihilism versus (what Bazarov would call) a trivial and ambiguous entity - passionate love. This situation between Bazarov and Anna would have been scoffed at by Bazarov himself, had another been in his place. Eventually