Fathers and Sons Symbols

Fathers and Sons is a classic Russian novel by Ivan Turgenev. Set in the backdrop of 1862 the story tells us about the relationship between a modern man and his friend, namely Arkady and Bazarov. The story revolves around the other relationships that the boys have, effectively about the relationship between the boys and their parents or among the love interest of each man. It is a beautiful story of changing time and changing mentality of the people that developed the overall outlook of the events. We are able to see the love, hatred, and indifference that each gradually develops and what are the outcomes of it. The story is associated with many symbolisms and there are three prevalent characteristics that are brought to the forefront.


The servants are the most important symbol that has developed from the novel. Let us consider Piotr for example. He is an obedient and dutiful servant who shows restrictions in performing his duty. He does this diligently and faithfully. But mentally he is a man who is no longer bound the age-old customs of the aristocracy. This can be seen from the fact that he bows to Arkady but not to Bazarov as they come home. He doesn’t kiss his master Arkady’s hand that he is supposed to and do not show any extravagant show of obedience. On the other hand, Prakofitch is guided by the old customs and laws of the servants that make him do everything with utter diligence and without much fuss. The characteristics difference between the two servants shows the extent of the modern thinking that is already evolving in the novel. Prakofitch is bound by the old customs and laws; he knows what is expected of him and performs this without any hitch. But for Piotr, it is a question of his own morality. He is no longer bound by the customs and law. Showing respect is his wish and so he performs it with moderation and to specific people. These two characters are the biggest example of the effect that the time period was going through.

Modern man

The modern man in the story is undoubtedly Bazarov. He is driven by his own nihilist intentions and likes to be in the center of attraction. He shows to regards for the old rules and customs and is unmoved by any event. He doesn’t feel any such compassion for his feeling for Anna, or his parents or even his friends’ parent. These are typically the characters of the nihilism that was on the rise in the society at that time. Later we see that Bazarov is moving from one place to another, from his friends family to Anna’s home and later to his parents’ home as if trying to figure out what he actually wants. His gestures that have wooed Arkady, who became his follower at the beginning, became more forced and desperate, especially when Arkady expressed his love for Anna’s sister Katya. Bazarov, who was known to have an indifferent attitude towards such customs, was the one who brokerage the marriage proposal during Anna’s reluctance. He even became more considerate towards his family members and gradually became a changed man himself. He even professed his love to Anna at his deathbed, after he had accidentally had a blood poisoning while performing a surgery. Though a person with a modern thought process, he still shows us the desperation of a modern man when he is not easily accepted by his peers and tries to be different in his style.


Daydreaming is a cleverly inserted symbol that is too obscure to be found or to have any direct reference. Still, it is the basis of the whole novel that makes this the most important word among all Father and Sons symbols. Daydreaming is only referred to once in the whole novel when it is shown that Nicolai, who was Arkady’s father, thinks about his past. It shows the expectations that the elder man had when they were young. It represents their liberal dreams and ideas that would change the society and its norms. The daydreaming represents the ideology of each of the generations in their own way, and it is the inherent fact that makes the book so interesting.

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