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The institution of serfdom within Russia was abolished in the year 1861. By that time most "enlightened" people within Russia realized the necessity of this act.

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The institution of serfdom within Russia was abolished in the year 1861. By that time most "enlightened" people within Russia realized the necessity of this act. The need for change in the Russian system was made apparent by the defeat in Crimea, and the numerous rebellions that had taken place over the past centuries. While nearly everyone agreed that change was necessary, the disagreement was over what change to enact. In "Father and Sons" Turgenev portrays the differing views of the Russian intelligentsia on the problem of reforming Russia. Two sides are shown, divided along generational lines; the fathers believing in gradual reform of the system using Western models and maintaining certain traditional values, in comparison to the sons who advocate the complete destruction of the old system and the revocation of all values. The generation known as the Fathers was men who believed in progress and innovation. They advocated the adoption of Western technology and ways of ordering society. The idea of the well-ordered police-state was very popular among this generation, as well as the institution of autocracy. Raised on the ideas of Hegel, the intelligentsia of this time believed in science and that everything could be explained rationally. These men sought to reform the system of land use in order to bring freedom and equality to the peasantry. ...read more.


(Turgenev, 69) The generation known as the sons was believers in the destruction of all institutions not beneficial to the common good, and since they viewed all institutions to not be for the common good, they were for the destruction of all institutions. They believed that be destroying all institutions and values that were obstructing progress they would open up Russia to future progress. When asked what their plans were following the destruction, they answer that someone else will figure that out. These men called themselves nihilists, claiming that they believed in nothing. The nihilists believed that only that which is practical and useful should remain. Art had music had no value to them, only science was valued. Bazarov states: "A decent chemist is twenty times more useful than any poet." (Turgenev, 97) They viewed the Fathers as being too sentimental and impractical. Also, they called for action against the government rather than simple discussion as the Fathers had done. "Allow me, Pavel Petrovich, Bazarov put in, you say you respect yourself and you sit with your arms folded: what sort of benefit does that do the bien public?" (Turgenev, 122) Many times in the novel possible violent action by the nihilists is hinted at. "Aren't you just talking like all the rest? ...read more.


The third Nihilist portrayed in the novel is Sitnikov; however, Sitnikov is shown to be a fool who simply claims to be a Nihilist because it is trendy. As for Bazarov in the end he realizes how useless his life has truly been. "Russia needs me.... No, clearly she doesn't. And who is needed? The cobbler's needed, the tailor's needed, the butcher... sells meat..." (Turgenev, 289) In the end the people who are happy are the moderates. Arkady goes to live with his Father, and together they reform the farm so that it becomes prosperous. Arkady gives up Nihilism and finds happiness, and by showing this development to us Turgenev is clearly advocating on philosophy over the other. Turgenev is a Father, but he understands the Sons. Turgenev manages to create characters in "Fathers and Sons" that embody their generations. Pavel is the perfect representative of the Fathers. He extols the virtues of the peasant commune, and the Russian family. Firm in his convictions and desirous of gradual reform he is a true moderate. Bazarov is also a perfect representative of Nihilism. He truly believes in the destruction of everything and the value of science alone. In the end like Nihilism itself he dies. Turgenev gives us the reader an accurate and descriptive depiction of the conflict between these two generations; the Fathers versus the Sons. Knupp 1 ...read more.

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