Notes on Turgenev`s Fathers and Sons

Russian 251
Notes on Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons
Structure: Three estates and three transitions
Carriage ride
1. Mar´ino (Kirsanov brothers, Fenechka): a medium-sized estate (200 serfs)
Town of *** (Sitnikov, Kukshina)
2. Nikol´skoe (Anna and Katia Odintsova): a large estate
Carriage ride
3. “Small manor house” (Bazarov’s parents): a poor estate (15-25 serfs)
Several journeys by the main characters back and forth among these estates
 Arkadii:
< Arcas, son of Zeus and King of Arcadia (which was named after him), a
sparsely populated, mountainous region in Central Greece adopted by the
poets as a symbol of the quiet, rustic life
 Bazarov: < Russ. bazar = bazaar; also, the noise and commotion attached to it. Also
< Russ. bazarit´/razbazarit´ = to waste one’s time, talent and energy on
fruitless pursuits
 Kirsanov: < ? Russ. kirasir < Fr. cuirassier = a prestigious category of officer in the
Napoleonic period (reminiscent of Arkadii’s grandfather, the old general)
Odintsova: < Russ. odin = one, alone, solitary, lonely
 Kukshina: < Russ. kuksha = colloquial term for certain birds of the crow family
 Sitnikov: < Russ. sitnik = a loaf of bread made from sifted flour
Henry James on Turgenev’s novelistic technique:
The germ of a story, with him, was never an affair of plot — that was the last thing he
thought of: it was the representation of certain persons. The first form in which a tale
appeared to him was as the figure of an individual, or a combination of individuals,
whom he wished to see in action, being sure that such people must do something very
special and interesting. They stood before him definite, vivid, and he wished to know and
to show, as much as possible of their nature. The first thing was to make clear to himself
what he did know, to begin with; and to this end he wrote a sort of biography of each of
his characters, and everything that they had done and had happened to them up to the
opening of the story. He had their dossier, as the French say, and as the police have that
of every conspicuous criminal. With this material in his hand he was able to proceed; the
story all lay in the question, What shall I make them do? He always made them do things
that showed them completely; but, as he said, the defect of his manner and the reproach
that was made him was his want of “architecture” — in other words, of composition… If
one reads Turgenev’s stories with the knowledge that they were composed— or rather
that they came into being — in this way, one can trace the process in every line. [From
Partial Portraits, London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1888]