Fathers and Sons

by Ivan Turgenev

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Compare and contrast the locations and inhabitants of Marino, Nicholskoe, and Bazarov's parents' homestead in Fathers and Sons.

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In Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev, there is much contrast not only in the physical premises occupied by the families but in the opinions and viewpoints in a time of upheaval and change in Russia. There is a clear distinction between the class levels, a tired aristocracy and also between the older generation and Arkady and Bazarov's generation who consider themselves progressive, even "nihilists."

Nicholai Petrovich Kirsanov thinks himself a forward-thinker, having a "farm" but his attitude and particularly that of his brother Pavel, shows that they think themselves superior to the "peasants." Despite grand ideas, Nicholai's farm, Marino, is run-down, not having "flourished, very little water had collected in the pond, and the well water had a brackish taste."(ch 5) The farm is badly managed by Nicholai and the workers take advantage. Fenichka, Nicholai's young mistress feels sharply out of place and even offers to move "into the side-wing again"out of respect to Arkady, Nicholai's eldest son.

Madame Odintsova owns Nicholshoe: "magnificent, luxuriously furnished and... a beautiful garden with conservatories." (ch 15). Despite Bazarov's apparent infatuation with her, he still recognizes that "She's a real Grand Duchess, a commanding sort of person; she only needs a train behind her, and a crown on her head," such is her class. Her estate is far grander that the Kirsanov's farm with "a peculiar dignified fragrance such as one encounters in ministerial reception rooms."(ch 16)She is of the "grand genre," the gentry, as pointed out by Bazarov. Anna had known Arkady's late mother, even being her confidante, suggesting that there was a time when the families mixed in the same circles. Unlike the relaxed, even disorganized Kirsanov farm, Nicholskoe has a very regimented routine which Anna is not prepared to sacrifice for any reason.

Bazarov's parents' home is a stark contrast to both Arkady's and Madame Odintsova's. The friends are not ushered in by servants and there is no restraint; Bazarov's parents are clearly pleased to see him, his mother almost beside herself. There is no expectation of "anything grand: we live very simply here, like military people." (ch 20 ). Arkady cannot help but enquire "How many serfs has your father?" Bazarov, unimpressed by wealth believes there to be "fifteen serfs, if I remember." As a former soldier, Bazarov's father recalls serving in Arkady's grandfather's brigade. 

Bazarov's mother is a homely woman, devoted to her son and quite emotional; very different from Anna Odintsova. There is also a contrast with Fenishka, Nikolai's young mistress who stays away from the activities of the household. According to Arina Vlasyevna, Bazarov's mother, "the world is divided into masters whose duty it is to command, and simple people whose duty it is to serve"(ch 20) revealing a further contrast between the three settings and the expectations and blatant differences which are exposed.

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Compare some locations in the novel, Fathers and Sons, and contrast the inhabitants of each place, especially Marino, Nicholskoe and Bazarov's family home.

Ivan Turgenev, in his novel Fathers and Sons, wanted to make a distinction to show the vast differences, both political and social, in Russia at a time when there was much turmoil and serfs were soon to be emancipated. 

Arkady's father Nicholai has pre-empted the law change and is satisfied at his seemingly progressive beliefs and his "farm." However, life is hard and the peasants are "in tatters and on the sorriest little nags" (horses) (Ch 1). Nicholai also feels "gloomy" and his run-down property is familiarly known as "Poverty Farm." If he had had the money Nicholai believes his farm could be a great place. Nicholai's brother Pavel hankers after a life he used to have as, "he was a great figure in his day."(ch 4) Although all his money is now spent - much of it to help Nicholai whose poor management skills have not helped the situation on "the farm-" he will return to as close a link to the aristocracy as he can manage when he goes to Dresden.

In sharp contrast to Nicholai is Anna Odintsova. She inherited her estate from her late husband. Here money is no object. It is an example of pure luxury and Anna herself, a woman who insists on a strict routine, " a commanding sort of person."(ch 15) Her lifestyle is very different from the one she seemed doomed to after her father died. She never did care for "domestic and household economy" and marries a wealthy man who leaves his estate to her. 

Bazarov's parents live a simple life, no airs and graces. Bazarov's father had been a soldier and doctor and is an old man. The house is unassuming, consisting "of six tiny rooms.”

So whilst the characters have different lifestyles and different outcomes, they all come from more humble beginnings. Nicholai's father "a crude, almost illiterate, but good-natured type of Russian;" (ch 1) Anna's mother from "an impoverished princely family and Bazarov's father, himself much older, is a humble man "but my work was only on one side; stick to your lancet and be content!" (ch 20)

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