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Turgenev's Fathers And Sons: Agree To Disagree - With A Free Essay Review

Many novels have captivating story-lines of the characters shifting from one position to another. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev is one of those novels. Throughout the book, Turgenev illustrates the separation that grows between two friends. From the start, Arkady was abnormally fond of a fellow student from the university, but by the end of the story the two men found themselves parting ways. The tension that existed within Arkady’s loyalty led the two scholars apart. Although Arkady wanted to follow Bazarov in nihilism, the reality of life proved such a belief system as impossible. As a result the disagreeing philosophies of the two led them to agree that they were better off apart from one another.

The friendship of these two young men began in their studies at the University in Petersburg. Arkady, being so drawn to his friend Bazarov, decided to bring him home with him. Immediately, Arkady expresses to his father his deep appreciation for Bazarov. In explaining the friend to his father Nikolai, he says “allow me to introduce you to my good friend Bazarov, about whom I’ve written to you so many times” (8). The manner in which Arkady speaks of his friend seems to elevate him to a man of great importance. It appears that Bazarov has Arkady smitten for some reason or another.

What was it about Bazarov that was so fascinating? As Turgenev presents Bazarov, he makes the character to be a rather bold individual. To Arkady, this is striking especially in the realm of science. Bazarov is more than a mere audacious individual; he is an individual that holds to nihilism. It is his nihilistic beliefs that have drawn in Arkady to himself. Again, Arkady presents this as an agreeable idea in discussion with his father and uncle. After Bazarov told Nikolai and his brother Pavel—Arkady’s uncle—that he was a nihilist, they questioned Arkady about what this meant. Arkady went on to explain it as “a man who does not accede to any authority.” Arkady also explains this as “good for [one man], while another may find it really bad” (30). It is at this point that the father and uncle are made aware of such a belief system.

Having learned of this way of thinking, Pavel begins to resent the younger man. He finds this way of belief absurd. Pavel begins to jeer Bazarov for living a life that disregards all authority. Pavel sarcastically criticizes the thinking by remarking, “He doesn’t believe in principles, but he does believe in frogs” (32). In a subtle way, Arkady finds himself caught in the tension between the two. He greatly respects his uncle, but is drawn in by the way of life that Bazarov so confidently exists.

Although Arkady still wants to keep ties with his family, he finds that he is more distant from them then he would like. This leads his friend to invite him to take a trip. The two decide to set off to see one of Arkady’s rich relatives. At this point, there is another hint of the tension Arkady has with being a nihilist. He is excited by the idea of the trip, but he could not show his joy for “He wasn’t a nihilist for nothing!” (80).

The journey leads to the growing distance between the two scholars. As they are going about enjoying the freedom of their youth, they meet a woman named Anna Odintsova. Immediately Arkady falls into a childish stupor before such a beautiful and mature woman. He is delighted to be in her presence and struggles to even clearly communicate with the lady. Although fumbling over his thoughts, Arkady finally gets the nerve to ask Madame Odintsova for the mazurka. She agrees just before she is pulled off to dance with another man. All the while Bazarov maintains to his nihilism and stands of by himself.

When Madame Odintsova returns, she and Arkady continue their conversation. She asks him about his friend. Once again, Arkady presents his friend in a very positive manner. Anna is struck by the fact that he does not respect any principles. She desires to meet such a man and encourages Arkady to bring him along when he goes to visit her at her house. Upon returning to his friend, Arkady receives some mocks from Bazarov. Immediately, Bazarov asks, “Did you enjoy yourself?” (101). He said so in a way that turned Arkady away from him. Arkady noticed his intentions and tried to redirect the conversation. Although the pessimistic side of Bazarov spoke, he found himself also attracted to the matured widow. It would not be long before this attraction would lead to tensions in the friendship.

A few chapters later, the two men go to visit Madame Odintsova as they had said. While they are there they meet her aunt, her neighbor and most importantly her younger sister, Katya. Katya is so important, because as Anna finds herself captivated with Bazarov, the two of them usher Arkady off to be with the younger sister. Arkady finds himself enjoying the company in some ways, but jealous of Bazarov as he is with Madame Odintsova. After being left to be with Katya for an entire day, Arkady makes some sneer remarks toward his friend. Instead of answering Bazarov’s question he says, “You were sitting a long while with Anna Sergheievna this evening” (136). Although he would not make such a point in the presence of the others, Arkady was sure to let Bazarov know his thoughts when they went to their room for the night. This comment led the two into a small quarrel. Bazarov was not fond of someone prodding him like that and retorted with scorn of his own. He accused Arkady of playing the piano all day which was a major insult to one who lives by nihilism. Arkady quickly defended himself before getting very quiet. The book then reads that “He felt tears welling up in his eyes yet he did not want to start crying before his mocking friend” (137). It is becoming more and more obvious the tension that is living within Arkady at this point in the story. He seems to be defenseless before his nihilistic friend. Although he greatly reveres this way of thinking, Arkady cannot seem to live by the principles that this believe entails.

A few pages later, the attraction between Bazarov and Anna is growing. They are spending almost all of their time together leaving Arkady and Katya by themselves. Ironically, Bazarov pronounces his love to Madame Odintsova. Things have now turned for the worst. A distance has grown between Arkady and Bazarov, but now with this proclamation Anna has distanced herself from her lover. After Bazarov proclaimed his feelings, Anna replied not with affection, but with fear. Turgenev described Madame Odintsova as “afraid of him and sorry for him” (141).

Such an awkward encounter led the two men to leave the estate they were visiting for some time. A number of things occurred in the time following. Before long, the two were back at Arkady’s house. As time progressed, Arkady found himself bored with Bazarov. All that Bazarov did was spend time in his scientific studies. Arkady had had enough and told his distancing friend that he was leaving on a trip to see Madame Odintsova. Bazarov did not care that Arkady was leaving and continued on with his work. The growing disagreement between the two men is growing more and more evident. They no longer have a desire to be around one another. More than that Bazarov has grown annoyed at the disciple, and Arkady bored with the teacher.

Arkady was now spending more and more time with Katya. The time spent was no longer a forced matter, but a choice of the two. They found themselves in a lovely company. As they spent this time together conversation came up regarding the bondage that Arkady was under to Bazarov. Katya kindly criticized the power that Bazarov has over people. Finally, the tension within Arkady ended. He exclaimed, “Do you notice that I have freed myself of his influence by now?” (229). Finally, the feelings that Arkady had been suppressing for so long had come to a head. He could no longer live a life without respect to any principles. He realized that such a life was impossible. Arkady felt the feelings of love and respect for those around him whether it be his family or Katya. Arkady gave in to the reality of life.

When the two men were again reunited, they realized the differences they had. The two realized that they could no longer agree on their positions of belief. Arkady had fallen into the feelings of love, while Bazarov grew hatred towards the feelings of love. There is a sense that Bazarov longed to have what he saw in Arkady, but he knew that it would oppose all that he stood for. Finally, Bazarov speaks the truth that Arkady could not. He told the passionate Arkady that they could not continue their friendship together. Before leaving he said, “Goodbye, brother” (251).

The two mutually decided that the paths they have chosen to take no do not run in the same direction. Bazarov had devoted his life to living by a philosophical system that did not allow for him to be honest with himself. Even in his best efforts, he still found himself caring for principles in life. Arkady too had a similar experience in the way he found himself caring about others thoughts towards him. He respected his family and the love of Katya more than nihilism. It is at this point that the two agreed to disagree. Though they both struggled to live by the values of nihilism, only Arkady had the ability to be honest to his convictions. As for Bazarov, he could not come to accept these realities and instead chose to continue the life that left him lonely.



You argue that Arkady and Bazarov part ways "as a result of [their] disagreeing philosophies." One of these philosophies, if that is the right word, is obviously nihilism, but the essay doesn't say exactly what the other philosophy is. Perhaps it doesn't have a precise name, but presumably it is possible to talk about the ideas and values that Bazarov opposes. You do talk about those ideas and values a little in the essay, but mostly in an indirect way.

Of course, insofar as the values of the older generation are opposed by Bazarov’s nihilism, it would help quite a lot just to clarify what nihilism is, but your essay doesn't quite do that either. You note that Arkady defines a nihilist as " a man who does not accede to any authority." The reason that is an insufficiently clear definition for your purposes is that the essay doesn't really address Bazarov's resistance to authority; instead, it refers to actions (such as taking a trip or playing the piano or dancing or pursuing love) that are for one reason or another a nihilist should not undertake or enjoy. What's missing, then, is a sense of the nature of the nihilistic opposition.

So when you speak of a tension in Arkady between his respect for his uncle and Bazarov's way of life, it's difficult to get a sure grasp of what that tension consists in. Pavel's sarcastic rebuke about Bazarov not believing in principles but believing in frogs doesn't really help us here, either, because you don't explain what that really means and whether it's a fair representation of Bazarov. You return to question of "principles" in the end, so this question is obviously an important part of your understanding of the rupture in the relationship between Bazarov and Arkady, and of the conflict within Arkady, and to some extent with Bazarov too. That's all the more reason to try to articulate a clearer understanding of the nature of the opposition between nihilism and the principles, whatever they are, espoused by Pavel and ultimately by Arkady.

Overall, your essay reads like a summary. Of course it is more than that as you do have an underlying argument that you want to make. But the summary is in the foreground. That's what determines the order of your presentation. In a slightly stronger version of this essay, your focus would be on the argument and references to the events in the novel would serve the crucial but secondary role of supporting specific claims. So instead of summarizing one part of the novel, drawing a conclusion, and then summarizing another part of the novel, you might make a specific interpretive claim and then refer to one or more events in the novel to prove that claim. If you look at the first line of each paragraph, you will see that in almost every case you are summarizing events in the novel. (Let me interrupt myself here to note that these first sentences are also in most cases very good transitions for a summary). What I'm suggesting is that the first sentences should look more like parts of an argument than parts of a summary.

So I've made two suggestions here. Clarifying the nature of the philosophical opposition or ideological opposition between the characters, or between the fathers and sons, can be handled in a partial revision that doesn't involve reorganizing the entire essay. The second suggestion does involve reorganizing the essay and radically changing its focus. That would be a more difficult revision, but you're smart and you write well so you might be up for it.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: jrodberg1

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