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Written by Nicola Francisc
Nikolai and Pavel are used as metaphors in relation with the old fashioned way of thinking. Both Pavel and Nikolai belong to the old aristocrat class with fixed ideas about how society should work and how they should interact with people from other social classes. While Nikolai seems to be more open to the new ideas, he still maintains some of the old aristocrat beliefs. This becomes clear when he delays asking Fenichka to marry him even though they already had a child together. Nikolai still held to the belief that someone should not marry someone with a lower social status and because of this, he still keeps Fenichka as a servant in the house. Arkady, however, urges his father to marry Fenichka, showing that for him it doesn’t matter if Fenichka is a servant girl and that social status doesn’t really matter.
In the novel, Fenichka appears as a metaphor for the simple minded peasant who id dependent on her master or husband. She is the pure Russian peasant, completely subservient to Nikolai who doesn’t dare to ask for favors from Nikolai nor does she expect to be treated differently just because she had a child with her employer. She is a humble girl, happy with the place other people assign her. Fenichka remains the same from the beginning until the end of the book and she remains unaffected by the changes that take place in her life. Just like Fenichka, the simple peasants in Russia remain unaffected by the ideological and philosophical changes that took place in Russia.
In an attempt to keep up with the new generation, Nikolai reads what he thinks to be an appropriate type of literature that will help him understand better the younger generation. Arkady also believes that through reading a person can understand better the new ideas so he suggests a German book to this father, a book that he believes will help Nikolai to understand the way Bazarov thinks. Thus, reading is used as a metaphor to describe a way through which the older generation can understand the younger generation.
When Madame Odintsova is concerned, she is always presented as being preoccupied with order. For her, everything has a place in the world and a lack of order makes her feel insecure. Bazarov is a metaphor for disorder because he is a nihilist and when he enters Madame Odintsova’s life, she starts to question the way she looked at the world until then. For Madame Odintsova, order is more important than love and this is why she refuses Bazarov’s feelings. For her, accepting Bazarov in her life would signify that she abandoned the principles after she lived until that point and embraced the chaos Bazarov symbolizes.
For Bazarov and Madame Odintsova, the idea of marriage and relationship is linked with the idea of confinement. They both seem to believe that if they give in to their feelings, they will no longer be able to think as freely as before and thus they avoid getting too involved emotionally. Marriage begins to be seen in a negative light by the modern man and be a metaphor for confinement and to a certain extent, regression.
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