Fathers and Sons is a Russian novel by Ivan Turgenev which was published in 1862. It is one of the best works from Turgenev, considered to be one of the most ‘liberal’ Russian authors of his time. This is also the reason why this novel reaches out and touches the hearts of readers from different parts of the world, not just Russia. Fathers and Sons is an exemplary piece of work and it offers something for everyone. Turgenev wrote this novel at a time of great class struggle.
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If you are looking for a novel from the classical Russian literature genre, Fathers and Sons is for you. The author has effectively shown the lives of the people of his country in his era. As you move from one page to another, you are revealed the culture and the personalities of the different characters of the time. It addresses some of the most common conflicts as its central theme – the differences between children and their parents and the class struggles.
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Bazarov is a unique character in Fathers and Sons who stands out because you will both hate him and love him at different stages. His utter rejection of all values on which society is based makes many detest him. He is one of the most practical-minded characters you will come across. And then there he is emphasizing on the importance of equality. When he starts believing in love, you will find another positive side to his character.
Raising children through the teenage years is the most difficult thing that any parent can contemplate. Fathers and Sons is truly recommended as a must-read for both parents and children to get a feel of how difficult things can be, and why. It is worth mentioning that giving a perspective of what parents go through and how they feel can help most teenagers to value their parents more.
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The novel shows a time in Russian history when the class system is undergoing change. And the impact of this change can be seen through Nikolai’s family. Bazarov believes that the changes to the old tradition are good and essential. Nikolai’s brother Pavel fears and loathes it, but Nikolai is the one who is trying to make the best out of it.
A number of famous works of literature of the time were influenced by the changes in class systems taking place at that time. ‘Fathers and Sons’ also contributes to this list in being an outstanding work.
Russian Class Levels in the 19th Century
When you start reading, you will find it normal to that the servants are fully dedicated to their masters in serving them. However, with the class changes coming into effect in the very next generation after Nikolai, the openness, freedom and the need for equality of the situation strikes hard at your face. When you find a servant who smokes his pipe and behaves in a way different from the customs of the time, you realize that social transformation of freedom and equality is taking place at a fast pace.
At the same time the boldness and radical approach is lacking in that change. And this is perhaps the reason why Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and other great authors criticized Turgenev for his works. It is hard to find a forceful hero in his works. In fact, Bazarov is the closest that comes to being the far-reaching hero that Turgenev could have created.
While most of the servant characters in the novel show respectable levels of deference and commitment to their old masters, those who are taking more of their freedom into their hands are also gentle in their approach.
Fenechka’s character is one outstanding example here. She has a kind of relationship with Nikolai, something that could not be accepted by the generation before him. And Fenechka realizes this and she is ever self-conscious of her own class status. She is not entirely certain that the love shown by Arcady goes beyond and ignores her status or is it due to the influence of his friends.
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Similar hesitation is seen among both sides of the class. Many think that there should be changes leading to more freedom for the servants, but at the same time total freedom seems to freak them out too.
Pavel has a deep commitment to the old system. He doesn’t trust the servants and wants to retain the old class system. Bazarov is depicted as the nihilist who is trying to bring about the changes in this setting. It is he who takes on Pavel and others who are opposed to change. Nikolai is the one who shows openness to the modern changes but still cherishes the comforts that came to him and his ilk in the past.
Turgenev’s ‘Fathers and Sons’ puts you in an unstable class situation with love blooming somewhere, someone trying to hold onto the old but unjust system, someone doing so without aggression, and someone who is suffering from the system but doesn’t want to grab the opportunity of freedom.
Fathers and Sons played an important role in bringing the term ‘nihilism’ into the mainstream. The word’s use increased significantly after Turgenev’s novel was published. It is also the first Russian literary work that gained popularity in the West.
‘Fathers and Sons’ has many charms to it. One thing that makes this novel different is that it’s focused more on specificity and less on drama. How Turgenev demonstrated this detail-based approach is something that makes you feel so special about his literary skills. Bazarov is a compelling character who is both magnetic and repulsive at different times. The novel has far-reaching effects in that it also attempts to answer questions about a variety of topics ranging from politics to nature to spirituality. And even while all this conflict is going on, the author’s emphasis on the importance of love makes a big impact on the reader’s mind.
Fathers and Sons is a must-read for both the young and the old. The detail-oriented approach to this novel sets it apart from many other popular works of the time.
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