Chapter III

"To think that you are now a graduate and home again!" said Nikolai Petrovitch as he tapped Arkady on the knee, and then on the shoulder. "There now, there now!"

"And how is Uncle? Is he quite well?" asked Arkady—the reason for the question being that though he felt filled with a genuine, an almost childish delight at his return, he also felt conscious of an instinct that the conversation were best diverted from the emotional to the prosaic.

"Yes, your uncle is quite well. As a matter of fact, he also had arranged to come and meet you, but at the last moment changed his mind."

"Did you have very long to wait?" continued Arkady.

"About five hours."

"Dearest Papa!" cried Arkady as, leaning over towards his father, he imprinted upon his cheek a fervent kiss. Nikolai Petrovitch smiled quietly.

"I have got a splendid horse for you," he next remarked. "Presently you shall see him. Also, your room has been entirely repapered."

"And have you a room for Bazarov as well?"

"One shall be found for him."

"Oh—and pray humour him in every way you can. I could not express to you how much I value his friendship."

"But you have not known him very long, have you?"

"No—not very long."

"I thought not, for I do not remember to have seen him in St. Petersburg last winter. In what does he most interest himself?"

"Principally in natural science. But, to tell the truth, he knows practically everything, and is to become a doctor next year."

"Oh! So he is in the Medical Faculty?" Nikolai Petrovitch remarked; after which there was silence for a moment.

"Peter," went on Nikolai, pointing with his hand, "are not those peasants there some of our own?"

Peter glanced in the direction indicated, and saw a few waggons proceeding along a narrow by-road. The teams were bridleless, and in each waggon were seated some two or three muzhiks with their blouses unbuttoned.

"Yes, they are some of our own," Peter responded.

"Then whither can they be going? To the town?"

"Yes—or to the tavern." This last was added contemptuously, and with a wink to the coachman that was designed to enlist that functionary's sympathy: but as the functionary in question was one of the old school which takes no share in the modern movement, he stirred not a muscle of his face.

"This year my peasants have been giving me a good deal of trouble," Nikolai Petrovitch continued to his son. "Persistently do they refuse to pay their tithes. What ought to be done with them?"

"And do you find your hired workmen satisfactory?"

"Not altogether," muttered Nikolai Petrovitch. "You see, they have become spoilt, more's the pity! Any real energy seems quite to have left them, and they not only ruin my implements, but also leave the land untilled. Does estate-management interest you?"

"The thing we most lack here is shade," remarked Arkady in evasion of the question.

"Ah, but I have had an awning added to the north balcony, so that we can take our meals in the open air."

"But that will give the place rather the look of a villa, will it not? Things of that sort never prove effectual. But oh, the air here! How good it smells! Yes, in my opinion, things never smell elsewhere as they do here. And oh, the sky!"

Suddenly Arkady stopped, threw a glance of apprehension in the direction of the tarantass, and relapsed into silence.

"I quite agree with you," replied Nikolai Petrovitch. "You see, the reason is that you were born here, and that therefore the place is bound to have for you a special significance."

"But no significance can attach to the place of a man's birth, Papa."

"Indeed?"

"Oh no. None whatsoever."

Nikolai Petrovitch glanced at the speaker, and for fully half a verst let the vehicle proceed without the conversation between them being renewed. At length Nikolai Petrovitch observed:

"I cannot remember whether I wrote to tell you that your old nurse, Egorovna, is dead."

"Dead? Oh, the poor old woman! But Prokofitch—is he still alive?"

"He is so, and in no way changed—that is to say, he grumbles as much as ever. In fact, you will find that no really important alterations have taken place at Marino."

"And have you the same steward as before?"

"No; I have appointed a fresh one, for I came to the conclusion that I could not have any freed serfs about the place. That is to say, I did not feel as though I could trust such fellows with posts of responsibility." Arkady indicated Peter with his eyes, and Nikolai Petrovitch therefore subdued his voice a little. "He? Oh, il est libre, en effet. You see, he is my valet. But as regards a steward, I have appointed a miestchanin, at a salary of 250 roubles a year, and he seems at least capable. But"—and here Nikolai Petrovitch rubbed his forehead, which gesture with him always implied inward agitation—"I ought to say that, though I have told you that you will find no alterations of importance at Marino, the statement is not strictly true, seeing that it is my duty to warn you that, that——" Nikolai Petrovitch hesitated again—then added in French: "Perhaps by a stern moralist my frankness might be considered misplaced; yet I will not conceal from you, nor can you fail to be aware, that always I have had ideas of my own on the subject of the relations which ought to subsist between a father and his son. At the same time, this is not to say that you have not the right to judge me. Rather, it is that at my age——Well, to put matters bluntly, the girl whom you will have heard me speak of——"

"You mean Thenichka?" said Arkady.

Nikolai Petrovitch's face went red.

"Do not speak of her so loudly," he advised. "Yes, she is living with us. I took her in because two of our smaller rooms were available. But of course the arrangement must be changed."

"Why must it, Papa?"

"Because this friend of yours is coming, and also because—well, it might make things awkward."

"Do not disturb yourself on Bazarov's account. He is altogether superior to such things."

"Yes, so you say; but the mischief lies in the fact that the wing is so small."

"Papa, Papa!" protested Arkady. "Almost one would think that you considered yourself to blame for something; whereas you have nothing to reproach yourself with."

"Ah, but I have," responded Nikolai Petrovitch. His face had turned redder than ever.

"No, you have not, Papa," repeated Arkady with a loving smile, while adding to himself with a feeling of indulgent tenderness for his good, kind father, as well as with a certain sense of "superiority": "Why is he making these excuses?"

"I beg of you to say no more," he continued with an involuntary feeling of exultation in being "grown up" and "emancipated." As he did so Nikolai Petrovitch glanced at him from under the fingers of the hand which was still rubbing his brows. At the same moment something seemed to give his heart a stab. Mentally, as before, he blamed himself.

"Here our fields begin," he observed after a pause.

"I see," rejoined Arkady. "And that is our forest in front, I suppose?"

"It is so. Only, only—I have sold it, and this year it is to be removed."

"Why have you sold it?"

"Because I needed the money. Moreover, the land which it occupies must go to the peasants."

"What? To the peasants who pay you no tithes?"

"Possibly. But some day they will pay me."

"I regret the forest's loss," said Arkady, and then resumed his contemplation of the landscape.

The scenery which the party were traversing could not have been called picturesque, for, with slight undulations, only fields, fields, and again fields, stretched to the very horizon. True, a few patches of copse were visible, but the ditches, with their borderings of low, sparse brushwood, recalled the antique land-measurement of Katherine's day. Also, streams ran pent between abruptly sloping banks, hamlets with dwarfed huts (of which the blackened roofs were, for the most part, cracked in half) stood cheek by jowl with crazy grinding-byres of plaited willow, empty threshing-floors had their gates sagging, and from churches of wood or of brick which stood amid dilapidated graveyards the stucco was peeling, and the crosses were threatening at any moment to fall. As he gazed at the scene Arkady's heart contracted. Moreover, the peasants encountered on the road looked ragged, and were riding sorry nags, while the laburnum trees which stood ranged like miserable beggars by the roadside had their bark hanging in strips, and their boughs shattered. Lastly, the lean, mud-encrusted cows which could be seen hungrily cropping the herbage in the ditches were so "staring" of coat that the animals might just have been rescued from the talons of some terrible, death-dealing monster; and as one gazed at those weak, pitiful beasts, almost one could fancy that one saw uprisen from amid the beauty of spring, the pale phantoms of Winter—its storms and its frost and its snow.

"Evidently this is not a rich district," reflected Arkady. "Rather, it is a district which gives one the impression neither of abundance nor of hard work. Yet can it be left as it is? No! Education is what we need. But how is that education to be administered, or, for that matter, to be introduced?"

Thus Arkady. Yet, even as the thought passed through his mind, Spring seemed once more to regain possession of her kingdom, and everything around him grew golden-green, and trees, shrubs, and herbage started to wave and glimmer under the soft, warm breath of the vernal zephyrs, and larks took to pouring out their souls in endless, ringing strains, and siskins, circling high over sunken ponds, uttered their cry, then skimmed the hillocks in silence, and handsome black rooks stalked among the tender green of the short corn-shoots, or settled among the pale-white, smokelike ripples of the young rye, whence at intervals they protruded their heads.

Arkady gazed and gazed; and gradually, as he did so, his late thoughts grew dimmer and disappeared, and, throwing off his travelling-cloak, he peered so joyously, with such a boyish air, into his father's face that Nikolai Petrovitch bestowed upon him yet another embrace.

"We have but little further to go now," he remarked. "In fact, when once we have topped that rise the house will come into view. And what a time we are going to have together, Arkasha! For you will be able to help me with the estate (if you care to, that is to say?), and you and I will draw nearer to one another, and make one another's better acquaintance."

"We will!" cried Arkady. "And what splendid weather for us both!"

"Yes; specially for your home-coming is spring in all its glory. Yet I am not sure that I do not agree with Pushkin where he says, in Eugène Onegin:

          "How sad to me is your coming,
          O spring, spring, season of love!"

"Arkady," shouted Bazarov from the tarantass, "please send me a match or two, for I have nothing to light my pipe with."

Instantly Nikolai Petrovitch ceased quoting poetry, and Arkady (who had listened with considerable surprise, though also with a certain measure of sympathy, to his father) hastened to produce from his pocket a silver matchbox, and to dispatch the same by the hand of Peter.

"In return, would you care to have a cigar?" called Bazarov.

"I should," replied Arkady.

The result was that when Peter returned to the koliaska he handed Arkady not only the matchbox, but also a fat black cigar. This Arkady lit at leisure, and then proceeded to diffuse around him so strong and acrid an odour of tobacco that Nikolai Petrovitch (a non-smoker from birth) found himself forced to avert his nose (though he did this covertly, for fear of offending his son).

A quarter of an hour later the vehicles drew up at the steps of a new wooden mansion, painted grey, and roofed with red sheet-iron. The mansion was Marino, or Novaia Sloboda, or, to quote the peasants' name, "Bobili Chutor."

Footnotes

  1. “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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. “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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin’s most famous work is Eugene Onegin, a novel in verse which Pushkin wrote and published between 1825 and 1832. The novel traces the story of the title character, a highly educated, world-weary young man who moves from St. Petersburg to the country. Onegin becomes a mentor to a naive younger man and an object of desire for a young woman, whom he initially rejects and then longs for. In both personality and action, Bazarov resembles Onegin. Turgenev introduces this allusion with irony: Bazarov despises poetry, despite the fact that he mirrors one of the central characters of Russian poetry.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was a Russian poet, novelist, and playwright. Born in 1799 and working until his premature death in 1837, Pushkin defined the modern Russian language and was perhaps the central figure of the romantic era of Russian literature. Given Nikolai’s professed love for poetry and romanticism, it is appropriate that Pushkin appeals to him. To this day, Pushkin is considered by many to be the greatest poet of the Russian language.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. This passage illustrates the central tension of Arkady’s inner life. Part of Arkady wishes to appeal to Bazarov’s rational, utilitarian understanding of the world. It is from this angle that Arkady coldly looks upon the landscape of his childhood, preaching about educational reform. Then his romantic side takes over and “Spring seemed once more to regain possession of her kingdom.” The following paragraph is a rhapsodic vision of the landscape, bursting with soulfulness and vivacity. Arkady cannot deny for long his delight in beauty and nature, values he shares with his father. Throughout the novel, Arkady continues this inner struggle between romanticism and nihilism.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. This translation is a little unclear: instead of “Katherine’s Day,” this should convey the land measurements that were using during Catherine the Great’s time. The narrator is referring to the former ruler of Imperial Russia Catherine II, whose work in the 18th century revitalized Russia and turned it into one of the great powers of Europe.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. While the quotation marks make this look like dialogue, context is important to understand that this question is thought and not said aloud. Turgenev uses a third-person omniscient point of view, and so readers are privy to the internal thoughts and feelings of characters. Here, we can see Arkady’s mixed reaction to his father’s self-reproach: he is both concerned for his father and feels a sense of having grown up.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Nikolai prefers to not use Thenichka’s name, and he blushes when Arkady says it. This phrase is an example of how Nikolai’s behavior is informed by his polite, conventional, and aristocratic upbringing: his aversion to saying her name suggests that she is not of the same social class and he wishes to avoid a scandal.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. 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.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Il est libre, en effet = [French] “He is free, in fact” For the Russian aristocrats and the educated, knowledge of French was essential. In fact, many Russian writers (like Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy) used French throughout their works to reflect this. Translations are not offered because contemporary readers these texts would have had passing knowledge of the French language.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. Nikolai has just agreed with Arkady’s observation of the surrounding area, suggesting that Arkady’s having been born in such a place means that he has a connection to the land. Having just fallen into silence after noticing the beauty of the area, Arkady reacts against his father’s suggestion by saying that such a romantic notion has no bearing on the circumstances of one’s birth. Nikolai’s confusion and the stilted conversation that follows shows how the two have grown apart since their last meeting.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Nikolai is concerned that Bazarov might judge him for allowing a servant such as Thenichka to stay in the house. In polite society, such an arrangement would be considered improper. Arkady assures Nikolai that Bazarov is above such matters of social propriety and would not concern himself, let alone cast judgment.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. In 1861, Tsar Alexander II freed all serfs—a kind of indentured servant—in Russia. Turgenev wrote Fathers and Sons in the immediate aftermath of this decree. Turgenev includes the tension between the ruling classes and the newly freed workings classes in the story—in this case, the tension which arises from Nikolai’s decision not to “have any freed serfs about the place.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Peter is a member of the modern working class and possesses an interest in advancing his social status. As a result, he looks down on “old school” working-class people who enjoy frequenting the tavern, an activity which Peter judges harshly. Peter attempts to elicit a nod of agreement from the coachman, but finds the man to be one of the “old school” servants he has just insulted.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Notice that prior to this line, Arkady rejoiced in the atmosphere around the villa, pointing out the beauty of the sky and the smell of the air. That he abruptly stops and looks towards the tarantass, in which Bazarov is seated, suggests that Arkady’s behavior in this moment would not be acceptable to his friend. This tension between Arkady’s love for traditional country life and Bazarov’s views persists throughout the story.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  26. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  27. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  28. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  29. Since we know that Arkady is with his father and his friend Bazarov, we can infer that this instinct to divert the conversation to more practical topics is due to the presence of Bazarov. This suggests that Arkady greatly values Bazarov’s opinions and that emotional matters are not things to be oft discussed.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor