Fathers and Sons Literary Elements

Fathers and Sons Literary Elements


Social novel

Setting and Context

The action in the novel takes place in Russia and it begins in 1859.

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is an anonymous third person narrator who provides information about the character’s past and also his personal opinion about certain events.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, ironic

Protagonist and Antagonist

Since the novel presents the conflict between two generations, the antagonist is the old generation and the protagonist is the younger generation.

Major Conflict

The conflict in the novel is a philosophical conflict between two ideologies existing at the same time. The major conflict is not a battle between two characters but rather a battle between the old and the new.


The novel reaches its climax when Bazarov confesses his feeling to Anna and she rejects him immediately.


When Pavel’s failed relationship is described, it foreshadows Bazarov’s relationship with Anna. Just like Pavel, Bazarov will have his heart broken by a woman who is unable to love him and his failed relationship will leave him unable to do the things he did before he meet her.


Before Arkady and Bazarov meet Anna, she is described by other characters as being attractive and good looking. This proves to be an understatement because when Arkady and Bazarov see Anna for the first time, they are both so impressed by her physical appearance that they fall in love with her immediately.


Being interested in the political situation during his time, Ivan introduces into his novel numerous allusions that point towards the social reforms that took place starting from the 1830s. The most notable allusion is made in reference to the status of the servants who were no longer treated like slaves but rather had rights and could choose how to show their respects towards their masters and the fact that landowners no longer had the power they had half a century ago. These changes created tension between landowners and the peasants, conflicts presented in the novel.


The way Pavel is described creates a unique image of the Russian aristocrat. Pavel is presented as being preoccupied by his clothes and looking down on those who don’t. Pavel is thus portrayed as a proud, vain man, stuck in the past and unable to accept the changes in the present.


Bazarov and Fenichka’s relationship can be seen as a paradox because of the social classes they represent. Bazarov represents the new man, highly intelligent and preoccupied by science while Fenichka is a simple girl, the classic Russian peasant who is subservient to her husband or master. Despite this, Bazarov becomes close to Fenichka and it is hinted that he started to develop feelings for her.


A parallel can be drawn between Arkady and Bazarov, both being the ‘’sons’’ in the novel. Arkady and Bazarov both accepted the nihilist philosophy and the new ideas so until one point, they share a lot of things in common on an ideological level. At one point however, after they meet Anna, a separation produces between the two and they drift further and further away. The differences between the two become obvious when the narrator describes the way the two men behave around their family and how they treat their parents. Arkady remains attached to his father despite his new ideas but Bazarov cannot accept the fact that his parents will remain stuck with their old ideas and beliefs. Arkady is willing to bed his ideas for his family but Bazarov can’t and because of this, he doesn’t find happiness.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Pavel always exhibits some kind of repulsion towards Bazarov’s behavior and exterior. This repulsion can be considered as being a synecdoche for disgust towards everything outside the accepted norm by the aristocrat class.


As if to complete the picture, the peasants whom they met were all in rags and mounted on the most wretched-looking little horses; the willows, with their broken branches and trunks stripped of bark, stood like tattered beggars along the roadside; lean and shaggy cows, pinched with hunger, were greedily tearing up grass along the ditches. They looked as if they had just been snatched out of the clutches of some terrifying murderous monster; and the pitiful sight of these emaciated animals in the setting of that gorgeous spring day conjured up, like a white ghost, the vision of interminable joyless winter with its storms, frosts and snows .

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