Nihilism in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons Essay Example
Nihilism in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons Essay Example

Nihilism in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1519 words)
  • Published: November 21, 2017
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Nihilism is explored in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons through a variety of characters who hold different perspectives on the world. Pavel believes in the need for structure, including institutions, religion, and class hierarchy in Russia. Madame Odintzov seeks simplicity and order in a world free from interference. However, Bazarov is the most intriguing and intricate character in the novel. Vladimir Nabakov suggests that Turgenev shifts Bazarov out of a self-imposed pattern and into the uncertain realm of chance.

Examining Bazarov will be the means of making sense of the statement. Bazarov's views and interpretations of science, government, and institutions will be explored using nihilism as a starting point. The issue of relationships will then be addressed, followed by an examination of Bazarov's death and the revelations it offers. When considering nihilism as a theme, these topics collectively demonstrate


that chance or fate is an influential force that cannot be easily dismissed. Throughout Fathers and Sons, nihilism is a recurring concept of significance, with a thorough examination of Bazarov's views being crucial to grasping its underlying principles.

We conduct ourselves based on what we believe is beneficial, with the most advantageous course of action being to reject - and thus we reject" (123).

The basis of nihilism involves denial or negation, which, as explained later in the paragraph, extends to the negation of everything. Nihilists do not construct anything because they see art and parliament as trivialities, while real-life issues like food, freedom, and equality are ignored. They recognize these social problems and mentally reject existing authorities and institutions that perpetuate falsehoods. Bazarov sums it up by saying, "That is not our affair" (126).

According to Bazarov, there are no

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beliefs or abstract sciences, as he only believes in tangible and concrete things. He does not value abstract sciences such as psychology, quantum mechanics, or neurochemistry. Bazarov questions the existence of science in the abstract and emphasizes the importance of only accepting what is tangible and concrete. His view is reflected in his statement, "I don’t believe in anything: and what is science—science in the abstract? There are sciences as there are trades and professions, but abstract science just doesn’t exist" (98).

. Nowadays, despite pursuing a career as a doctor, Bazarov is critical of medicine and holds no one in high regard. He deals with "pure sciences," meaning his ideas stem from practical experience rather than theoretical knowledge. Bazarov's nihilistic beliefs are affirmed by his work, particularly his focus on dissecting frogs.

As he examines the internal organs of frogs, he observes that they all possess comparable structures such as the heart, liver, and intestines. Similarly, humans share a fundamental internal anatomy. The abstract notions of authority, religion, and science are not inherent within individuals but are merely given substance by society. Bazarov's studies align with his defiant demeanor as he acknowledges that all people are alike both physically and spiritually.

"..and the moral qualities that we possess are identical," claims Bazarov (160). Much like his indifference towards general science, Bazarov feels no sentiment towards art.

According to Bazarov, he lacks appreciation for art and finds it unimportant; he also shows indifference towards nature's beauties. This is because art and nature do not serve any purpose in his opinion. It is similar to the saying, "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder." (159, 169)

Bazarov lacks an

appreciation for beauty. His focus is on pressing issues such as corruption and structural change, rather than on aesthetics in art and nature. Nihilists, including Bazarov, are concerned with these issues and not with the latest works from artists like Pushkin or Alexander. Additionally, institutions such as education, government, and established authority are held in contempt by Bazarov.

According to the statement of "Everyone ought to educate himself" (105), education is the starting point for the indoctrination of established society. Therefore, a nihilist should approach education with the mentality of viewing it from behind the barrel of a shotgun. As Bazarov stated, logic is irrelevant when it comes to basic needs such as eating, "You don’t need logic, I suppose, to put a piece of bread in your mouth" (123). The destruction of societal structure is necessary for the nihilist agenda, which goes beyond logic and is as vital as breathing or eating. Additionally, Bazarov discredits the preaching of politicians and leaders by stating that it lacks any rationality.

"Aristocraticism, liberalism, progress, principles - they are just a bunch of foreign and pointless terms," says Bazarov (123). He effortlessly dismisses the values important to the government and sees most of their actions and words as trivial and evading the actual issues."

According to the text, the so-called progressives and reformers failed to achieve anything substantial despite their cleverness. The author also criticizes discussions about various topics such as art, unconscious creative work, parliamentarianism, and the bar as distractions from the real issue of procuring daily bread. Ultimately, the author believes that lack of honest leadership is the cause of industrial failures. These corrupt societal factors have contributed to

Bazarov's nihilistic disposition. Although Bazarov could choose to ignore these evils, he has chosen to confront them instead.

Rather than embracing structure, Bazarov has chosen to become a destroyer of structure - a nihilist in every sense of the word. Disdainful of the world he finds himself in, he feels compelled to reject everything it produces. Nevertheless, Bazarov's self-imposed nihilism, which gave him the ability to deny everything, faces a challenge we all encounter - chance. When Bazarov encounters Madame Odintzov, we see our hero experience distress. Until then, he had maintained his frigid demeanor and easily passed tests of his nihilist beliefs.

Despite his accustomed luck, Bazarov encounters a new challenge when he befriends Anna Odintzov. This acquaintance evokes feelings in Bazarov that he desperately tries to suppress but ultimately cannot. Initially, he feels inspired; however, this sensation later tortures and maddens him (169). Bazarov eventually finds himself consumed by fantasies in which his evident lust for Anna is unmistakable, despite his attempts to deny them. He realizes that, despite his strength in other areas, he is overwhelmed by these "shameful" thoughts and resorts to stamping his feet or grinding his teeth and shaking his fist at himself (170).

Despite his teeth grinding and fist shaking, Bazarov finds himself unable to resist his growing passion. As he breathes heavily and trembles uncontrollably (182), he struggles with his deeply held nihilistic beliefs and the seemingly trivial concept of passionate love. Bazarov would have mocked the situation he finds himself in with Anna if he were in someone else’s shoes. However, the fierce and agonizing passion consuming him becomes too much to bear (182) and he ultimately

gives in to its fiery fury.

This demonstrates that love's power cannot be denied even by a nihilist who rejects all authority, institutions, and social conventions and disregards rules. Life lacks rules and its unpredictable, slightly disordered nature makes conformity appealing. Bazarov comprehends life's reality and chooses to embrace the undefined, 'chaotic' world rather than abide by norms, rules, and standards imposed by others.

According to Bazarov, conformist lifestyles are akin to ‘gliding along the rails’. Unlike others, Bazarov lives without any external support at the edge of a precipice. This self-reliant approach makes him a more resilient individual. Bazarov identifies misconduct and impropriety in several establishments and strives to dismantle them.

Bazarov faces difficulty in pursuing nihilism independently since it entails a lonesome and difficult existence (271). To effectively dismantle institutions, a greater number of valiant men akin to Bazarov are required. Yet, it so happens that Bazarov exists in an era that is unsympathetic to his ideologies. It is too soon and the populace remains unaware, as they are gradually losing their identity.

Bazarov's decline is anticipated by the peasants, who view him as a fool despite his self-assurance (276). Bazarov's nihilistic beliefs seem to be confined to his own mind; he understands that Russia is not yet prepared for his notions and accepts his destiny in a remarkable manner. When he falls ill, he does not lash out or grit his teeth, but rather acknowledges, "It's a lucky event, and quite an unpleasant one, truth be told" (281).

Bazarov, known as Russia's great nihilist, finds himself confronted with the greatest negation of all - death. Despite his efforts to deceive himself, he realizes that he cannot

negate fate. As he puts it, "Yes, just try and set death aside. It sets you aside, and thats the end of it!" (283).

The concept of nihilism has immense transformative power. It entails the abandonment of authority, institutions, and conventional value systems, which renders subordination, normalcy, rules, and laws obsolete. This drastically alters social behavior and responsibility, as seen in Bazarov's nihilistic embrace. However, negation has its limitations, which Bazarov confronts when confronted with certain unfathomable circumstances.

If someone happens to fall in love, their formidable armor confronts the sword of denial. The power of a nihilist is found in their mind and lies within their strong beliefs. However, the capability to cause destruction is ultimately no match for the dominance of destiny, which takes the form of annihilation.

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