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“Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev Review Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022


Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818-1883) is among the famous Russian novelists who have managed to explore various themes. Fathers and Sons is one of the novels that portray his major works in the nineteenth century. The sons and their fathers in this novel have demonstrated an enormous gap which exists between two generations. The generation gap of the second half of the nineteenth century portrayed by Turgenev is clear-cut and depicts an aspect and problem that Russia faces.

A twofold character is introduced in this novel and an ongoing crash of the Nihilistic opposition between Bazarov and Pavel ensues1. The dual character clearly elaborates the differences in ideologies between the two generations. The entire novel contains instances that show conflicting ideas between two generations evaluated and analyzed in this paper. It is worth noting that throughout the history, generation gap often leads to conflict, especially between people with different world views, for example, radical and traditional ideas.

Ideological conflict and generation divide

Fathers and Sons novel contains various instances which demonstrate discrepancy between ideas of individuals from the two generations. Ideological conflict refers to divergences in people’s point of views, doctrines as well as beliefs on the basis of political, economic as well as social facets. On the other hand, generation gap is the demarcation of individuals in certain generations which could be in term of civilization or other factors.

In the first half of the novel, Turgenev demonstrates father son dynamic which exhibits the separation between the son and his father’s world views. This demarcates a boundary between the new and the old generation. Arkady and Bazarov represent a generation with a rebellious position. Both of them ascribe to nihilism. On the other hand, Pavel, Nikolai and Platonich ostensibly stand for a generation that upholds traditional principles. This is clearly exhibited in their ideological arguments. Nikolai seems to be ashamed that he lives with Fenichka, who is 23 years old, and yet they are not married. Arkady is not shocked to realize that his father lives with a girl. He even calms his father down. To him, that is not a major issue, and it seems acceptable. This clearly portrays the difference in ideologies between the sons and his fathers2.

Bazarov demonstrates the differences that exist between the two generations. He tries to portray his nihilistic ideals. He is a man who believes in nothing. He seems to criticize individuals who are in romantic relationships. Arkady is a follower of Bazarov’s nihilistic beliefs. The two try to take their emotions out of the scene, but it is impossible to do such a thing bearing in mind that they are humans. Their philosophy is, however, doubted even if they are in a generation that proclaims not to believe in emotions. At a later stage, we see Bazarov falling in love with Anna, and Arkady falls in love with Katya. This means that they believe in love, a fact that beats their philosophical logic. We also find Arkady and Nikolai having an upright father and son relationship. He significantly respects his father, and the fact that his father has married to a young wife does not bother him. However, their beliefs are clearly divergent. In order to be acceptable to his cohort, Arkady espouses nihilistic ideologies as a way to entertain Bazarov. However, that is not his true self that has been portrayed in his characters3.

The two generations in the novel are depicted to have different stance on morals. There is an instance when Bazarov kisses Fenichka. Pavel sees them kissing and secretively plan for a contest in order to challenge him. Bazarov thought that duels are ancient and silly, and he is convinced that the kiss is just a petty issue. An act which could be seen as disrespect by the older generation has been depicted as a normal conduct, signifying a sub-culture that prevails in Bazarov’s generation.

The two generations have divergent views about marriage. Although Nikolai lives with Finichka before their marriage, he thinks she is a low-class woman. This issue does not bother Pavel, instead, he advocates that, indeed, it was time his father should marry her. This depicts a clear-cut border between the new and the old generations’ ideologies.

There are situations where the son supports his father, however, in other case, he is determined to rebel. Arkady is warm-hearted and open to others just like his father Nikolai. However, he seems to believe in science and philosophy that are preached to him by his friend. Bazarov, on the other hand, supports his father, but in some instances, he disapproves his father’s views.

Pavel is a character who is very conventional. Interestingly, he also holds on attachment to the ancient ideals as well as to social policies that are strictly followed by the czarists. Pavel and Bazarov are the two characters who entirely indicate the contrast in ideology between generations as well as being a confirmation that generation divide is a common phenomenon in the second half of the 19th century. Unlike Pavel, Bazarov does not believe in the old ideals, such as aristocracy, serfdom or patriotism. The two disagree in an argument. Therefore, it is clear-cut that they have divergent points of views4.

The fact that Nicholai tries to read progressive books as well as make sure that they have more progressive talks with his son depicts that generation divide exists. Perhaps, the father tries to find ways in which generation gap could be closed. Nicholai recognizes that he couldnot comprehend everything in her son’s new world. He is both awestruck as well as frightened by his son’s beliefs, and this depicts the shock that prevails due to differences the two generation’s world views. The narrative, therefore, demonstrates that generation divide prevails between the father and his son.

The new generation, however, seems to have unshaped beliefs. We find this in Arkady’s actions, especially when he defends his father’s as well as his uncle’s convectional beliefs. He also appreciates romantic acts as well as art and nature. However, Bazarov portrays a group of individuals in his generation who are enormously grounded in their beliefs and ready to ruin the views of the older generation at all costs.


Fathers and Sons novel exhibits the connection that fathers and sons have in the face of changing age. Intergenerational conflict has been clearly outlined in the development of characters in this book. Generation divide has developed conflict which affects characters’ attitudes towards life. Bazarov, Akardy and Odintsova are characters who have been portrayed to exhibit characteristics of generation that believes in science and philosophy. They seem to put emotion out of their context in the first place; however, we find them disapproving their beliefs by taking actions that show they have emotions. Their nihilistic beliefs set them aside from the generation that believes in traditional ideals. Throughout the novel, the characters expose the fact that the difference between their ideological conflicts is an element of generation divide.


Turgenev, Ivan. 2005. Fathers and Sons. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing.


  1. Turgenev, Ivan, Fathers and Sons. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing,6.
  2. Turgenev, Ivan, Fathers and Sons. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 10
  3. Turgenev, Ivan, Fathers and Sons. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 11.
  4. Turgenev, Ivan, Fathers and Sons. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 13
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