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Beginning Bonds And Broken Ends In Turgenev's Fathers And Sons - With A Free Essay Review
S. Duffield #505 “Fathers and Sons” essay
Christian Perspectives 4/25/12
There are all kinds of friends; those you laugh with, those you cry with, and those you would die for. However, with friendships also come hardships, which can ultimately lead what was once a tight bond, into a broken or lost relationship. In Ivan Turgenev’s book, “Fathers and Sons,” we see a friendship between Arkady and Bazarov endure this very emotion. While Arkady and Bazarov have a strong friendship at the beginning of the story, through a series of events Arkady realizes their differences, and their friendship is not the same as it once was. In order to better understand just how different Arkady and Bazarov are, we must first look at Arkady’s relationships between his father and his uncle, and then look at how that differs from Bazarov’s view of relationships; which ultimately leads to a broken bond between Arkady and Bazarov.
First, there is the relationship between Arkady and his father. Arkady is a graduate from St. Petersburg and has become infatuated with the nihilist worldview. Arkady has developed this liking for nihilism because of his new friend Bazarov, who is a devoted nihilist. The story begins with Arkady’s father anxiously awaiting the return visit of Arkady and is surprised to see another person alongside his son. “Arkady! Arkady! Krisanov shouted, waving his hands and running forward…A few seconds later, he was already pressing his lips on the young bachelor’s beardless, dusty and sun-tanned cheeks” (pg. 4).Given the anticipation of the father waiting for his son one can almost guess how close the relationship between Nikolai and Arkady has been in the past. What we soon find out, however, is just how distant Arkady has become with his father, Nikolai. “Here you are, a graduate now, and back in the fold, Nikolai said, patting Arkady on the shoulder and now on the knee. Home at last!” “And how is Uncle Paul? Is he keeping well? Inquired Arkady who, despite a sincere and child-like feeling of elation, was anxious to switch the conversation as soon as possible from an emotional level to one of ordinary conversation” (pg.8).
Even though Arkady is, in a sense, rebelling against his father at the beginning of the story, we still get the sense that he is a kind and good son. His relationship with his father is still that of much love and admiration. The night that Arkady arrives home he and Bazarov have a discussion about Arkady’s family and Bazarov makes some offensive comments about Arkady’s father and uncle, but Arkady defends them and starts to give his uncle and father credit where it is due. “But your father’s fine. A pity he has a weakness for reciting verse; it’s unlikely that he understands much about estate management, but he must be a kind-hearted man.” My father has a heart of gold! replied Arkady” (pg.18). “He said no prayers for himself that night” (pg. 19). This act that Arkady has done, praying for others and not himself, goes to show that despite the fact that he calls himself a nihilist, someone who believes in nothing, he still shows this act of selflessness, which is so far from Bazarov’s way of thinking; showing that Arkady still has a very deep love for his father and past beliefs.
Next, there is the relationship between Arkady and his uncle, Pavel. Pavel is a proud military man who carries himself with “aristocratic elegance.” At the very beginning of the story, we see that within the first interaction between Pavel and Bazarov there is judgment immediately. Arkady shares with his uncle that Bazarov is a nihilist and Pavel reacts by saying the very thing is just a phase that Arkady is going though, a “new fad for young people who respect nothing.” This is hard for Arkady because you can see that there is already tension with Bazarov and the rest of Arkady’s family. Bazarov later begins to criticize Pavel to Arkady and Arkady reacts by sticking up for Pavel and telling Bazarov how noble and good Pavel is and how people see him. “What an eccentric uncle you have…and as for his nails-why, they’re only fit for an exhibition!” “You don’t realize, Arkady replied, he was a society lion in his day…he was as handsome as they make them, and a regular Don Juan” (pg. 18). With this explanation of his uncle you can see how much Arkady cares for Pavel and loves him enough to stand up for him and show judgmental Bazarov just how great of a man Pavel really is; an act which, again, Bazarov would not see fit with the nihilist life. Later on, Arkady tells his uncles’ story of being the most admired and desired man, and ends by talking of Pavel’s broken heart and despair; Bazarov is still not amused.
Despite the insulting remarks from Bazarov toward Arkady’s family, Arkady still cares very much for their friendship and continues to idolize Bazarov and his beliefs. It is hard to imagine how someone could put up with such a person and his remarks, but we have to realize how Arkady saw Bazarov at the beginning of the story. The relationship between Arkady and Bazarov is very strong; Arkady loves Bazarov and admires his beliefs and intelligence. “Please daddy, do be very kind to him. I can’t tell you how much I esteem his friendship.” “The natural sciences are his main subject, but he knows everything” (pg.8-9). With this admiration that Arkady has for Bazarov, we see change in him, not only in his beliefs, but also a change in his relationships with his father and uncle. What was once a very close relationship between father and son has now become distant and a little cold. During the story Nikolai overhears Bazarov and Arkady talking of how Arkady’s father is “behind the times; his day is done” and Nikolai hopes to hear Arkady defend him and instead he stays silent. As the story goes on, we start to see that Arkady is not so similar to Bazarov after all, and his traditionalist view starts to overpower his nihilism.
Toward the middle of the book is where we start to see a change in Arkady and Bazarov’s friendship. While there were disagreements throughout the beginning, Arkady still cared very much for Bazarov, but now, with some very insulting remarks and egotistical gestures from Bazarov, Arkady soon realizes how different the two of them really are. A few weeks after being at Arkady’s home Bazarov and Arkady go to a nearby town to visit a successful relative of Arkady's, Matveilyich Kolyazin. Kolyazin invites the two of them to a ball and it is there that Arkady meets a lovely lady, Madame Odintsova and her sister Katya. At first Arkady is very fond of Odintsova, but she becomes infatuated with Bazarov and so he gets to know Katya very well. Along with meeting those two ladies, Arkady meets a friend of Bazarov’s, Sitnikov, who is also a fan of Bazarov. During his interactions with Sitnikov Arkady begins to see the changes he wants to make with the friendship he has with Bazarov. Arkady quickly perceives what a fool he is, and he can see how Sitnikov stupidly agrees with everything Bazarov says. Later in the story, Bazarov tells Arkady that the Sitnikovs of the world are necessary, and "only then in a flash did all the fathomless depths of Bazarov's conceit dawn upon him" (pg. 140). It is through Sitnikov that Arkady begins to understand how Bazarov belittles him, and when he realizes how little esteem Bazarov has for him, he develops the confidence to begin shaping his own life.
When Arkady goes home with Bazarov and meets his family, there is more tension between Bazarov and Arkady and he sees Bazarov as conceited, and does not like the fact that Bazarov sees himself as a god. While at Bazarov’s home, the two friends have an argument about beauty. Arkady sees a dead leaf fall from the branch and says that even though it is dead it still has a way of falling like a beautiful butterfly. Bazarov makes fun of him and tells Arkady not to talk in such ways because beauty is an “indecent” way of talking, but Arkady disagrees and explains that he does not understand what is “indecent” about talking beautifully and then asks the question of what is decent then…”to abuse people?” Then Bazarov replies by insulting Arkady’s uncle which send Arkady over the edge. “Oh! I can see you’re determined to follow in your uncle’s footsteps. How that idiot would rejoice if he heard you!” “What did you call my uncle?” I called him an idiot, as was fitting.” “But this is becoming unbearable! Arkady exclaimed” (pg.155). “No friendship could bear such strain for long” (pg. 157).
At the end of the book, Arkady has a long discussion with Katya, and she tells him how different he is to Bazarov, describing Bazarov as a “wild beast” and Arkady as a “domestic animal.” At first Arkady is offended at the term domestic animal, but then Katya explains that Arkady is a kind man, one who can find fulfillment in love and the quiet life. The biggest differences between Arkady and Bazarov are not those of philosophical beliefs, but of personality. Bazarov has a certain intensity about him, a mixture of pride, ambition, and meanness that Arkady lacks. Bazarov is not amused with Arkady’s romance and compares him to a “jackdaw”, a bird that is given to as a symbol of bonding. Arkady soon realizes that what Bazarov is trying to portray as disappointment with Arkady is really just jealousy that Arkady has something that Bazarov will not have-love for someone other than himself.
In the end the change that happens to Arkady is the realization that he is not a nihilist, rather, he is someone who loves someone else more than he loves himself. Arkady's brief love with nihilism abruptly ends when he falls in love with Katya. In his own words, "everything else has long ago melted into thin air without a trace" (pg. 240). Arkady’s once tight bond with Bazarov turns to a broken and distant friendship.
You start out with the intention of showing "just how different Arkady and Bazarov are" and claim that this difference between the two characters can be gauged by looking at "Arkady's relationships [with] his father and his uncle" and that it "ultimately leads to a broken bond between between Arkady and Bazarov." I'm not convinced that the second of these claims is true, but I'm also not sure that you are convinced that it is true. To be sure, you go on to demonstrate that Arkady retains some respect for his family despite Bazarov's criticism of the father and uncle, and that on occasion he defends them from that criticism, but after three or four paragraphs devoted to this part of the novel, you note only that "what was once a very close relationship between father and son has not become distant." That implies a similarity between Arkady and Bazarov and so is a conclusion at odds with your thesis. You cope with this difficulty by suggesting that "as the story goes on, we start to see that Arkady is not so similar to Bazarov after all." But as you go on to argue, what demonstrates the difference between the two friends is something other than Arkady's respect for his family and what causes the rift is Arkady's appreciation of "how little esteem Bazarov has for him."
So your essay appears to be demonstrating something other than what your introduction implied it would demonstrate. That's a significant problem because if your ultimate argument is right, it's not clear what purpose the first few paragraphs of your essay can serve. In your third-to-last paragraph, however, you do revisit the question of how Arkady's respect for his family exacerbates the conflict between Arkady and Bazarov. That presents you with an opportunity to re-assert and clarify the importance of family loyalty to Arkady, and so salvage your original thesis. You don't take that opportunity, however, because you conclude the paragraph with a string of quotations whose significance (for your reading of the novel) you leave up to the reader to decide. It's generally a bad idea to just drop a quotation into a paragraph like that and hope your reader understands what you are getting at. Of course it takes a little bit of work, but your essay will be much more compelling if you go to the trouble of analysing and explaining the significance of such quotations.
Your penultimate paragraph introduces new claims about the differences between Arkady and Bazarov, claims that I find credible, but which nonetheless you don't do much to support. You do make assertions that, if true, would support your claim, but the assertions themselves are not grounded in analysis of the novel. More importantly, the argument of this paragraph is not explicitly related to other arguments or to the overarching argument of your essay, so it seems to have negative impact on the coherence of the essay as a whole. The conclusion too introduces new interpretive claims that don't obviously cohere with the rest of the essay.
You need, then, to prune your essay of those parts that don't really contribute to demonstrating the truth of the argument that you want to make about the essay; but you also need to revise that argument so that it accurately reflects what your reading of the novel actually brings to light. I suspect you began here by imagining that the problem between the two friends really was one that was primarily exacerbated by Bazarov's disrespect for Arkady's family, but having read the novel honestly and with critical intelligence you realized the situation was much more complex than that. Your essay needs to demonstrate more explicitly and more honestly your appreciation of that complexity.