‘Fathers and Sons’, a novel written in the mid-19th century by Ivan Turgenev, has received much critical acclaim ever since. The novel begins with Nikolai Kirsanov, one of the main characters of the story, waiting patiently for his son. The author describes some of the physical features of Nikolai, and provides some context to his character. The readers learn of his tragic past, how he had broken his leg and failed in his dream of joining the army, and then lost his parents shortly after. Nikolai married and had a child, but his misfortune led him to the death of his wife a decade later, making him a single parent. He brought up his son by himself and admitted him into the University of Petersburg.
The narrative shifts back to the present, where Nikolai finally catches sight of his son coming down the road and sprints to him in excitement. He finds his son, Arkady with his friend, Bazarov, and they continue onwards to Nikolai’s abode. Arkady inquires of his uncle, who was supposed to be present, but Nikolai informs him that he couldn’t make it. Being the son of a Russian General, Nikolai’s family is of high-class. Nikolai briefs his son about the current conditions of his life and his estate. Upon arrival, they are greeted by the house servants and Pavel, Arkady’s uncle. They all enjoy supper, where Pavel is criticized for his unorthodox views, and they conclude the day.
The following morning, Nikolai and Arkady wake up to have their breakfast. Arkady wishes to meet Fenichka, the servant Nikolai has developed a relationship with, but is surprised by the discovery of an infant brother with her. Pavel joins the breakfast and the three of them discuss Bazarov, who is currently outside examining frogs near a pond. They start discussing nihilism, owing to Bazarov’s belief. They call for Fenichka to serve them, but Pavel seems quite agitated by the sight of her.
Bazarov returns from his travels and engages in a conversation with Pavel. It’s clear that Pavel wishes undermine him, but fails and leaves disappointed. The author now provides a backstory for Pavel through Arkady’s speech to Bazarov. The readers discover that Pavel had been in love with a woman in his past, but failed to have his feelings reciprocated countless times. The woman’s untimely death had a major effect on him and he’s stayed here helping Nikolai ever since. Arkady and Bazarov both agree that his misery is due to his own actions. Nikolai seems content with the fact that his family has endorsed his relationship with Fenichka. Arkady, however, after an interaction with her, explains to his friend how he wishes for them to get married.
A couple of weeks transpire and Bazarov seems to be getting along quite well with the people around the house apart from Pavel. This seems clearer when he appears doubtful of his advice to Nikolai to engage in more meaningful books. The company discovers that Matvei Ilyich, a relative of Nikolai and Pavel wishes to host them, but they decline, knowing that he only wishes to flaunt his riches.
As the day continues, Pavel and Bazarov find themselves in a heated debate on societal and religious ideologies. Nikolai notices the difference of opinion between him and his son and admires the fact that his son is now a grown man. Arkady and Bazarov’s visit ends as they decide to visit a distant relative on behalf of Nikolai. The house servants seem quite dismayed by their departure, unlike Nikolai and Pavel.
Arkady and Bazarov receive a warm welcome from their host Kolyazin, who seems a little upset for Nikolai and Pavel not being able to make it. They continue their visit by going to meet the governor, at Kolyazin’s proposal. On their returning journey, they cross paths with Herr Sitnikov, who informs Bazarov that his father has been searching for him and wishes for him to meet with a woman named Madame Kukshin, who has newly gotten divorced. The three of them visit her, and she starts questioning Arkady and Bazarov in a form of interrogation. Afterward, they engage in an argument about feminism. Sitnikov wins the argument and feels immensely proud of himself for dismantling Madame Kukshin’s views. They finally help themselves to some liquor and Arkady and Bazarov take their leave.
Arkady and Bazarov find themselves in a ball and they are introduced to every notable personality. This is when they cross paths with Madame Odintsov, a woman Sitkinov had previously informed them of. They two gentlemen are amazed by her beauty and grandeur, and Arkady even offers her a dance, to which she concurs. As they interact more, Madame Odintsov urges them both to pay her a visit. The author makes it clear at this point that both the men appear interested in Madame Odintsov.
Arkady and Bazarov decide not to waste the opportunity and choose to meet her. As they converse for a somewhat lengthy period, Bazarov seems increasingly frightened, but it gets clear that Madame Odintsov has no romantic interest in Arkady, as she treats him more like a younger sibling. She takes this moment to extend her invitation for both the men to visit her at her own home in Nikolskoye. Arkady gracefully agrees, but is surprised when he notices his friend blushing.
Three days pass and the two men journey towards Nikolskoye to meet Madame Odintsov once more. As they arrive, they are greeted by her and the remaining house members that consist of her younger sister and her aunt. Bazarov and Madame Odintsov engage in a conversation about art and the individuality of our race, while Arkady notices how Odintsov’s aunt is neglected in most situation. The neighbor, Porfiry Platonych, decides to introduce herself and entertains the guests some more. Arkady soon finds himself to be attracted to Katya, Madame Odintsov’s sister, while Bazarov reveals that he has grown an interest for her as well. As the day concludes, it becomes evident that Bazarov has sparked some curiosity in Anna Sergeyevna’s mind too.
The next day ensues and the readers notice Arkady become jealous of the growing relationship between Madame Odintsov and his friend. But Bazarov, after two weeks, realizes winning over Odintsov might not be an easy task. He asks for his leave to go meet his parents, to which Odintsov is saddened. On his last day, he chooses to confess his love to her, but is, regrettably, let down. In their last dinner together, Arkady explains to his friend that he wishes to leave with him as well.
The two men leave for Bazarov’s house. His parents seem extremely satisfied on their son’s arrival, but are soon disappointed as they learn that they would leave only after three days. The men end their visit and go back to Nikolai and Pavel.
Back in Maryino, Arkady is haunted by the thought of Madame Odintsov, and desperately looks for reasons to visit her. Bazarov, however, secludes himself of social practices and only chooses to speak with Fenichka and gradually gets drawn to her. He even tries to kiss her, but is caught under Pavel’s eyes. Pavel seems extremely maddened by this outcome and demands for a duel against Bazarov. The duel ends with Pavel receiving a blow to his thigh. Bazarov declares that he will leave, but he must tend to Pavel’s wounds first. As promised, he departs the next day without any formal interactions.
Pavel slowly recovers and it becomes evident that he harbors feelings for Fenichka. She, however, is troubled by this development and chooses Nikolai. Pavel soon gives up on his feelings and suggests that his brother should marry her.
Meanwhile, back in the estate of Madame Odintsov, Arkady finally confesses to Katya and asks for her hand in marriage. Anna is delighted by the proposal and gives forth her blessings. Bazarov, a little disheartened by the outcome, decides to return to his parents’ estate despite everyone trying to convince him otherwise. He does, however, convey his regards to his friend on the engagement.
Bazarov remains at his family estate for a month and a half. He then, regrettably, comes in contact with a contagious disease and sends word for Madame Odintsov. She responds immediately, bringing a German doctor with her. But despite her best efforts, Bazarov meets his death after one last conversation with Madame Odintsov.
The narrative progresses forward, following Nikolai and Arkady’s weddings. Pavel has decided that he must go to Moscow and the entire family has arrived to bid him farewell.
The author then concludes the narrative by describing the fates of the other characters. Madame Odintsov finds love again, but her aunt expires soon after that. Nikolai and Arkady decide to run their family business together, and Katya even gives birth to a son. She develops a close relationship with Fenichka and Pavel finds everything he set out for in Moscow. The novel finally ends on a depressing note of Bazarov’s grave and how his family weeps of their son’s death.