In Fathers and Sons, the concept of human confrontation with mortality is revealed in the way the characters cope with their lives and how and whether they accept their own reality.
In terms of the universe, every person has a place in it. When life is harsh or unpleasant, some people deny that life in their search for something better. Confronting fear can be redeeming and create opportunities for something better but it is often viewed suspiciously and actually restricts development and undermines progress. Bazarov and Pavel are good examples in the discussion of this concept.
Bazarov intends to face his future with very distinct views and even surprises himself when he falls for Anna, as there is little room in his world for sentimentality and emotion, except as it is thrust on him by his doting parents, especially his mother. He comes to regret that he admits to Anna "I love you like a fool, like a madman." When she indicates that "You misunderstood me,"(ch 18) he is devastated although will never admit it, nor fight for "such trifles." He warns Arkady that "it's better to break stones on the road than to let a woman get the mastery of even the end of one's little finger." When he is confronted with Pavel's insistence of a duel, he realises the stupidity of them both but proceeds anyway. His reality does not factor in his possible demise. Ultimately, such disregard will cause his death as he carelessly assists a doctor and cuts himself. He accepts his fate, even mocking his father's own words- " It's an astounding thing how human beings have faith in words."(ch 27)
Pavel strongly disagrees with Bazarov's views and is contemptuous towards the peasants. He also does not consider the "bigger picture" in his interpretation of events. He has a high opinion of himself which almost kills him when he duels with Bazarov. He has an "oppressively aristocratic manner and expressed his opinions more by inarticulate sounds than by words."(ch 23) He remembers a better life and, although he helps his brother Nicholai when his” farm” is failing, spending all his money, he never accepts his lot, eventually moving to Dresden to be as close to the aristocracy as he can be. He is considered to be one who has "long been accustomed to move in the higher ranks of society" (ch 28) and is now content.
Whatever man is striving for, it is believed that he is always looking for ways to understand and therefore, improve, his life and be free from restrictions, resulting in a more open, less self-serving and defensive existence.