Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in Fathers and Sons

Vocabulary Examples in Fathers and Sons:

Chapter I

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"tarantass..."   (Chapter I)

There are several different makes and styles of carriages throughout this story. The tarantass is one of the more common ones that the characters use. This is a four-wheeled Russian traveling-carriage that has a long flexible wooden chassis positioned on top of the wheels without springs.

"in Nikolai's own footsteps..."   (Chapter I)

This expression means that Arkady followed the same path as his father. So, we learn that not only did Arkady go to the same university as his father, but he also took up the same studies. This further reinforces the closeness between father and son prior to their meeting in the current time.

"when ten years had been passed in this idyllic fashion..."   (Chapter I)

While Hogarth's translation maintains the essence of this passage, the original Russian directly translates to "Ten years passed like a dream" (Десять лет прошло как сон). This information is important for understanding Nikolai Petrovich's, and even Arkady's, attachment to their estate in the country. Note too that Hogarth uses the word "idyllic," which has romantic connotations country life. The overall effect is to paint an image of a kind of a unique, almost timeless, place in the country, removed from the concerns of the world. When Arkady arrives at Marino, pay attention to the description of the estate and see how it compares with this initial image.

"in a villa..."   (Chapter I)

Hogarth (and Garnett in her translation) used “villa” as a translation for the Russian word “dacha” (дача), or a small country house used during the summer. The word "dacha" has since entered many English dictionaries, including the OED, and is often left untranslated due to the culturally specific meanings it contains.

"embarked upon connubial felicity..."   (Chapter I)

Hogarth’s translation here had to get a little creative since the verb Turgenev chose (блаженствовал/blashenstvoval) translates to something like “to luxuriate” or “to be blissfully happy.” It’s often used with recently married couples, and so the choice of “embarked on connubial felicity” applies: the adjective “connubial” describes something as relating to a marriage—in this case “felicity,” or “happiness.”

"not only comely, but one of the type known as "advanced"..."   (Chapter I)

The adjective "comely" (миловидный/milovidniy in Russian) means that someone is pleasant to look at. Turgenev also tells us that Nikolai's wife is "advanced," using the Russian word развитой (razvitoy) which directly translates to "developed" and means something like "educated."

"foolscap..."   (Chapter I)

The original Russian says that their father sent them large sheets of grey paper (присылал сыновьям большие четвертушки серой бумаги). So, in this context, a “foolscap” is a large folio of writing paper.

"tchinovnik..."   (Chapter I)

A “tchinovnik” (чиновник) is a general term for any government official in the Russian Empire who acted as a kind of civil servant, minor functionary, or clerk.

"mobcaps..."   (Chapter I)

Worn by many women in the 18th and 19th centuries, mobcaps are a large soft hat that has a frill around its edges and typically covers all of the hair. For Agathoklea Kuzminishna’s to have been “pompous” means that they likely had lace or more intricate designs.

"hard-up governors..."   (Chapter I)

The Russian word гувернер (guverner) shares a phonetic similarity to the English word “governor.” However, for many English speakers, this word most readily carries political connotations. A more accurate translation would be “tutor.” Additionally, the original Russian word "дешевые" which Hogarth has translated as "hard-up" also means "cheap" or "inexpensive." So, Nikolai Kirsanov was educated by “cheap tutors.”

"desiatini..."   (Chapter I)

Another unit of measurement formally used in the Russian Empire, the desyatin is a Russian superficial measure of 2400 sq. sazhens, in which one sagene (sazhen) equals seven English feet. So, Nikolai Petrovitch has about 2.86 acres to his name. It’s possible that Turgenev has him say "two thousand" because it sounds more impressive.

"versts..."   (Chapter I)

A “verst” (верста) is a Russian unit for measuring length. It is equal to approximately 3500 feet, or about two-thirds of an English mile, and was in common usage until the communist revolution.

"in a supercilious manner..."   (Chapter I)

The way the servant looks down the road reveals part of his character. The original Russian word is снисходительно (sniskhoditel’no) which translates to “condescendingly.” The adjective “supercilious” is synonymous in meaning, so we learn that this servant considers himself superior to the task at hand, and he won’t make more effort than is necessary.

"a tuft of pale-coloured down..."   (Chapter I)

“Down” refers to the soft feathers from birds that is often used to stuff pillows, coats, or other materials. The original Russian word in this passage is пух (puxh), which is similar but also means something akin to “fuzz.” In English, we sometimes refer to the beard of a young man as “peach fuzz” to indicate youth. Turgenev is doing the same thing with this character.

"posting-house..."   (Chapter I)

This is a translation of постоялый двор (postal’niy dvor). Since industrialization was slow to start in the Russian Empire compared to Western Europe, transportation by horse and carriage remained popular into the 20th century. Posting-houses served as a kind of inn where travelers could get fresh horses, food, and shelter.

"barin..."   (Chapter I)

Many translations consider “barin” a synonym for “gentleman” or a “squire”; however, this term also has an association with the Russian aristocracy, the landowners who controlled the lives of the serfs. To call someone барин (barin) is to also call them “lord” or “master.” This distinction is important throughout the story as it acknowledges landowning, privileged, or politically influential citizens.

"cortège..."   (Chapter II)

The original Russian for this word is "ehkipash" (экипаж) which translates to something like a crew or entourage. However, Hogarth has chosen "cortege" which, while having a similar meaning to the Russian word, also has associations with a funeral procession. This is possibly an indication of future conflict or trouble with the main characters in the story.

"blouse..."   (Chapter II)

While in today's vernacular a blouse is most strongly associated with a woman's garment, this was not always the case in earlier centuries. For many peasants and the poor, a blouse referred to a loose garment that hung over the body and was held close by a belt.

"ostler..."   (Chapter II)

At way stations and inns during times when traveling by horse was more common, "ostlers" were those who changed horses for carriages and generally kept them fed and housed. The word is derived from the French hostelier which means innkeeper and shares a root with "hostel."

"koliaska..."   (Chapter II)

During the 19th century, two words were generally used for “carriage” in Russian: “kareta” and “koliaska.” The choice of use depended on the speaker, but generally we can understand that a koliaska can only hold two people and is pulled by one or maybe two horses.

"indeterminate-coloured..."   (Chapter II)

It's unclear why Hogarth has translated this compound adjective in such a way. The original Russian directly translates to a dark blond or fair color of hair (темно-белокурые). Possibly, he is using this as a moment to add something even more odd or unique about Bazarov's first appearance.

"the prominent convolutions of the skull..."   (Chapter II)

In the 19th century, several pseudosciences gained prominence in the public mind as well as in literature. One of the more notable ones is phrenology, or the study of the size and shape of the skull and how that relates to moral and intellectual characteristics. Turgenev likely points out Bazarov’s skull to indicate to readers something subliminal in Bazarov’s character or intellect.

"you will not find time hang heavy upon your hands..."   (Chapter II)

The original Russian directly translates to “I hope, Evgenii Vasiliev, that you will not be bored with us” (Надеюсь, любезнейший Евгений Васильич, что вы не соскучитесь у нас). Hogarth has instead used this idiom to possibly add a bit of a country flair to the dialogue, showing that Nikolai Petrovich is more of a country gentleman and prone to using flowery language.

"whiskers..."   (Chapter II)

Whereas a beard covers the cheeks, chin, and upper lip of a man's face, the whiskers typically only cover the cheeks. This style was much more popular in the 19th century than it is today, with the term "sideburns" serving as a more popular word choice.

"replied the other in slow, but virile, accents..."   (Chapter II)

Turgenev's description of how Bazarov says his first words establishes much about his character. Instead of "slow," the original Russian uses the word "ленивый" (leniviy, or "lazy"). The use of "virile" is appropriate, and the general image of Bazarov conveyed by these word choices is one who possesses power but cares little for what is going on around him. Notice how laziness, which manifests as contempt, tends to characterize Bazarov and reinforce his views of the world.

"my good friend Bazarov, who is the comrade..."   (Chapter II)

It is important to note that Hogarth has added the word "comrade" (товарищ) to this sentence. Garnett's 1917 translation simply says "my great friend, Bazarov, about whom I have so often written to you." Hogarth's translation came out in 1921, and Lenin and the Communists had largely taken over the Russian Empire. This addition of "comrade" then is a political choice and not true to Turgenev's original.

"the inn yard..."   (Chapter II)

This is an inconsistent example with the translation from the first chapter. The original Russian is the same here as it was for the “posting-house.” It’s unclear why Hogarth would translate it differently, but perhaps this allows for readers to better understand the purpose of the location as a kind of waypoint for travelers.

""Bobili Chutor."..."   (Chapter III)

“Bobili Chutor” is the peasants’ nicknames for Marino. The name can be translated as “fieldless farm,” a reference to the derelict state of much of the farmland, as described earlier in the chapter.

"Novaia Sloboda..."   (Chapter III)

“Novaia Slobada” is one of the alternate names for Marino. It can be translated as “New Place,” a name derived from the fact that Marino was recently constructed.

"rooks..."   (Chapter III)

Rooks are a species of bird closely related to crows and ravens. That these scavenging birds are referred to as “handsome black rooks” reveals the extent to which Arkady looks upon the harsh landscape with a romanticized gleam.

"hillocks..."   (Chapter III)

An archaic word, “hillock” refers to a small hill. As with much of the language in this paragraph, Hogarth reaches for poetic diction in an attempt to convey Arkady’s romanticized view of the landscape.

"siskins..."   (Chapter III)

A “siskin” is a variety of small songbird. More specifically, the term applies to a subspecies of birds in the finch family. Arkady’s attention to specific flora and fauna reveals his love for the landscape of his childhood.

"ringing strains..."   (Chapter III)

In this context, the word “strain” refers to a passage of music. Thus the phrase “ringing strains” imagines the larks’ singing as music reverberating over the landscape. This is a projection of Arkady’s romantic imagination on the scene. This is an example of the pathetic fallacy, a device in which the world is perceived in terms of human values and qualities.

"vernal zephyrs..."   (Chapter III)

The adjective “vernal” means “of spring” while “zephyr” refers to a mild breeze. The phrase serves as a poetic version of “spring winds.” Hogarth likely chose such heightened diction to convey Arkady’s rapture as he looks over the spring landscape.

"grinding-byres of plaited willow..."   (Chapter III)

The archaic word “byre” means “farmhouse,” and so “grinding-byre” refers to a farmhouse in which grain is milled and ground. The adjective “plaited” means “braided,” suggesting that the byre is constructed of braided willow boughs, an inexpensive building material.

"miestchanin..."   (Chapter III)

This Russian word can be translated as “philistine” or “petty bourgeois.” So, Nikolai is stating that his new steward is a member of the middle class. In 19th century Russian, there was a small (compared to Europe) middle class that was not as well educated as the upper class, which likely explains why Nikola says that the steward “seems at least capable.”

"cheek by jowl..."   (Chapter III)

The idiom “cheek by jowl” suggests close proximity. In this context, the suggestion is that the huts in which the peasants live are jammed together. This serves as one detail in a scene of overall squalor.

"tithes..."   (Chapter III)

The original Russian word here is “оброка” (obroka) which, in this context, more accurately translates as “taxes.” The word “tithes” has religious connotations, and here, Nikolai is saying that he is having difficulty collecting taxes, or dues, from the peasants who work his land.

"muzhiks..."   (Chapter III)

Historically, this word referred to Russian serfs and peasants in general. In modern usage, it has come to refer to a man whose behavior and interests are stereotypically masculine.

"waggons..."   (Chapter III)

The American spelling of this word contains only one g, but it is important to note that the original word here is “telega” (телега) which usually translates to “a cart.” The difference is important because these workers are poor and likely cannot afford a larger wagon for transportation.

"the Medical Faculty..."   (Chapter III)

Readers will likely know that this means that Bazarov studies medicine. The word “faculty” is a direct translation from the Russian “fakultet” (факультет). In English-speaking countries, we tend to use the word “faculty” to refer to people who work within an academic department.

"pray humour him in every way you can..."   (Chapter III)

When used as a verb, the word “humor” means to accommodate someone’s particular mood or attitude. In a sense, Arkady is asking his father to ensure that Bazarov enjoys himself. The second sentence also suggests that Arkady wants his father to respect Bazarov’s wishes as he would Arkady’s, which emphasizes how valuable a friend Bazarov is to Arkady.

"repapered..."   (Chapter III)

This verb refers to Nikolai’s having Arkady’s room redone with new wallpaper. At the start of the 19th century, and lasting well into the 20th century, there was a revival of interest in wallpaper designs and use around the world and in England and France in particular. Considering that the Russian aristocratic class had close, historical ties with these nations, the French in particular, it is not surprising that the Kirsanov house utilizes this means of decor over bare wood or paint.

"carefully avoided the use of the term "Papasha," and, once, even went so far as to substitute for it the term "Otety"..."   (Chapter IV)

“Papasha” is a term of endearment, a variation on “father.” The equivalent word in English would be “daddy” or “dear papa.” In his desire for adulthood and independence, Arkady wishes to refrain from using the word he would have used as a boy. Arkady even tries to use “Otety,” a formal variation of “father” to further distinguish himself as an adult.

"Je pense que notre Arkady s'est dégourdi...."   (Chapter IV)

Je pense que notre Arkady s’est degourdi = [French] “I think that our Arkady has acquired some polish.”

The French verb dégourdir literally means “to stretch.” As an adjective, however, dégourdi means “intelligent.” Because Paul uses the verb reflexively, the idea is that Arkady has cultivated himself, has stretched himself and become intelligent. By speaking in French, Paul is expressing this message of cultivation in a cultivated manner.

"sallow..."   (Chapter IV)

The adjective “sallow” means yellow, peevish, or pale, and generally serves to describe the complexion of one’s skin. The description of Paul’s complexion as “sallow” is somewhat surprising, given the contradictory account of his good looks. It is likely that Paul’s sallow complexion signals his aging state despite his efforts to maintain a youthful appearance.

"swarthy..."   (Chapter IV)

Prokofitch, the butler of Marino, is described as “swarthy,” a word which suggests a darker complexion of skin.

"livery..."   (Chapter IV)

Generally, livery refers to a distinctive style of clothing for a particular position: for example, a servant’s livery, an official’s livery, etc. This man’s grey livery indicates his position as Paul Kirsanov’s valet.

"a matutinal toilet..."   (Chapter V)

In the original Russian, the phrase here is an утреннего туалета, which translates as “morning toilet.” The adjective “matutinal” means “of the morning,” but it has fallen out of modern usage. Additionally, the use of “toilet” here refers to Paul’s grooming and dressing himself rather than the conventional, modern use of the word. So, this phrase could be recast as “which was striped, not white, as best befitted a morning outfit.”

"Paul Petrovitch himself felt his bon mot to have been out of place, and hastened to divert the subject to the estate and the new steward...."   (Chapter V)

A bon mot—French for “good word”—is a wittily phrased remarked. Paul’s bon mot addresses how Bazarov “believes in frogs more than in principles.” Despite having had little direct contact with Bazarov, Paul already openly criticizes him in a manner that Arkady and Nikolai find distasteful. Paul’s criticisms only grow.

"Mais vous avez changé tout cela...."   (Chapter V)

Mais vous avez changé tout cela = [French] “But you have changed all of this.” Speaking in French, Paul discusses the way in which the young generation has caused a shift away from a principle-based life. Paul raises a genuine philosophical problem when he goes on to wonder “how you will contrive to exist in an absolute void, an airless vacuum.” It is by no means a simple philosophical question to answer. It is, in a sense, one of the central questions of the book: in an age that is increasingly secular and non-traditional, where does one locate values?

"(Paul Petrovitch pronounced the word softly, and with a French accent, whereas Arkady had pronounced it with an emphasis on the leading syllable)..."   (Chapter V)

Arkady has pronounced “principles” the way we would normally do so in English, with an emphasis on the first syllable: principles. Paul, however, replies with the French form of the word, with its emphasis on the second syllable: principes. Perhaps Paul’s use of French is a rhetorical choice that demonstrates his principled nature.

"as his fingers began their customary perambulation of his forehead..."   (Chapter V)

This detail subtly reveals Nikolai’s thoughtful nature. As he considers the question of telling Arkady about Thenichka, he worriedly touches his forehead. The word “perambulation” is clever in this case. To perambulate is to survey a property, an action which Nikolai is no doubt familiar with.

"empressement..."   (Chapter V)

Of French origin, the word empressement, when used in the context of speech, means “emphasis” or “gregariousness.” In a clever blending of form and content, Turgenev punctuates the paragraph with a powerful, italicized French word. This formal choice mirrors the way in which Arkady builds toward a strong conclusion to his remark.

"tea-urn..."   (Chapter V)

A “tea-urn” is a sort of kettle or carafe designed to hold hot water for tea. The word is somewhat outdated.

"nosegays..."   (Chapter V)

A “nosegay” is a small bouquet of flowers, usually selected for their fragrance. The word derives from “nose” and “gay,” as in “brilliant”; the idea is that a nosegay is brilliant to the nose.

"asperity..."   (Chapter V)

The noun “asperity” refers literally to a roughness of texture. In this passage, Bazarov’s quality of asperity refers to his plainspoken, inelegant style of communication. His informal style adds to his appeal to the peasants.

"cozened..."   (Chapter V)

To “cozen” someone is to cheat or deceive them. Though Bazarov enjoys winning the favor of the peasants, he does not do so in order to take advantage of them.

"brackish..."   (Chapter V)

The adjective “brackish” describes water that is both freshwater and saltwater. Nikolai’s wells failed in that they draw up brackish, as opposed to purely fresh, water.

"ab origine..."   (Chapter VI)

The Latin phrase “Ab origine” means “from the start.” Paul’s use of Latin should not surprise readers given his tendency to pepper his speech with French words and phrases.

"postulates..."   (Chapter VI)

In philosophy, a “postulate” is an underlying principle or presupposition on which an argument is built. Paul wishes to know if Bazarov believes in any widely accepted truths, and so he questions Bazarov as to which postulates he abides by. It is a fair question, since it is difficult for two people to hold a conversation if there is no shared underlying structure of truth and belief. Bazarov erupts, however, exclaiming “‘Is it an examination in tenets?’” It is not an examination in tenets, because tenets are opinions. On a basic level, Paul wishes to know whether he and Bazarov have any common ground at all in their respective understandings of the world.

"birds of passage..."   (Chapter VI)

Birds of passage are migratory birds that inhabit multiple geographic regions, travelling from one to another according to the seasons. Paul refers to “Russo-Germans,” those of German origin who live in Russia, insultingly as “birds of passage.”

"empyrean..."   (Chapter VI)

The adjective “empyrean” is synonymous with “celestial,” referring to the heavens. The word derives from the ancient Greek word “empyros,” meaning “fiery,” used by the Greeks to discuss the highest heaven, imagined as a sphere of pure fire. The heavens are often associated with lofty contemplation; in this passage, Paul’s thoughts drift up to the “empyrean.”

"brusquerie..."   (Chapter VI)

The noun “brusquerie” refers to blunt or rude behaviour. As an aristocrat, Paul expects to be treated with elegant manners, particularly by those younger than he is. Bazarov has no respect for such conventions.

"Germanics..."   (Chapter VI)

Paul intends to refer to the Germans in a teasing, derogatory tone. Thus he uses a formal and outdated word for Germans. This word is translated variously as “Germanics” or “Teutons.” The important point is that Paul is subtly mocking Germany, and since Bazarov values Western thought and German philosophy, Paul is also mocking Bazarov.

"physics..."   (Chapter VI)

Today the word “physics” refers to the study of non-living matter and energy. Classically, “physics” refers to all of the natural sciences, which is how the word is used in this case.

"I flushed five head of woodcock...."   (Chapter VI)

The woodcock is a type of shorebird found commonly throughout Russia. To “flush five head” is to coax five birds from their hiding place in the underbrush, usually for hunting purposes.

"coppice..."   (Chapter VI)

A coppice is a small stand of trees, usually planted with the intention of being cut down for lumber.

"the gilded youth of his day..."   (Chapter VII)

The phrase “gilded youth” refers to fashionable young men belonging to wealthy families. However, in the original Russian, the line (он ввел было гимнастику в моду между светскою молодежью) conveys a little more meaning. Rather than “gilded youth,” the adjective светскою (svetskoyu) can mean “worldly” in addition to “fashionable.” This suggests that Paul had a lot of influence as a youth.

"while men called him 'Fate,' and secretly detested him..."   (Chapter VII)

There are two errors in this translation. First, the original Russian says that the men called him фат, which better translates as a “fop” or a “dandy.” Second, Hogarth says that the men “secretly detested him” but the actual Russian (и втайне завидовали ему) better translates to “they secretly envied him.” So, this line means that while the men insulted Paul by calling him a “fop” or “dandy,” they also envied his success and wanted to be more like him.

"turned crusty..."   (Chapter VII)

In this context, the word “crusty” refers to Paul’s character. By Bazarov’s account, Paul has become brittle and hardened as a result of having pinned his hopes on his love for Princess R. and then failing.

"ennui..."   (Chapter VII)

The French word ennui refers to a deep, soul-level boredom. In the decade following Paul’s resignation from military life, as will as his failed pursuit of the princess, he whiles away his time in St. Petersburg. During this decade, ennui is the defining word for Paul in his aimlessness.

"habitué..."   (Chapter VII)

A “habitué” is a regular, or someone who habitually attends a specific place. In the wake of his failed affair, Paul tries returning to the status of “society habitué” in order to retain a sense of order. However, he is no longer the young officer he once was, and so he finds no solace in being a socialite.

"by hook nor crook..."   (Chapter VII)

The idiom “by hook or by crook” means by any means necessary. In Paul’s case it refers to his desperate desire to return to his old way of life after his failed affair with the princess. The saying, Irish in origin, and refers to the process of gather firewood from trees using either a billhook—a type of curved blade—or a shepherd’s crook.

"the Psalter..."   (Chapter VII)

The psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, the third book of the Bible. The psalms are Princess R.’s desperate nightly retreat from the world of St. Petersburg society. This passage illustrates the princess’s psychological imbalances, as well as her spiritual yearnings.

"coquette..."   (Chapter VII)

A “coquette” is a woman who draws attention and affection from men in order to satisfy her own vanity rather than to reciprocate the feelings in a genuine way. It is generally considered a derogatory term, indicating that Princess R. had a somewhat tainted reputation in St. Petersburg.

"to play the rake..."   (Chapter VII)

A “rake” is a pleasure-seeker who engages in such habits as gambling, drinking, and promiscuous behavior. As a promising young officer with notable good looks, Paul “play[ed] the rake” as a young man in St. Petersburg. The word “rake” comes from “rakehell,” which may derive from the Old English rakel, meaning “rash,” or the Old Norse reikall, meaning “restless.”

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