Chapter IV

There issued on to the verandah to greet the arrivals no throng of household serfs—only a solitary girl of twelve. Presently, however, she was joined by a young fellow much resembling Peter, but dressed in a grey livery coat to which embossed, silver-gilt buttons were attached. This was Paul Kirsanov's valet. In silence he opened the door of the koliaska, and unhooked the apron of the tarantass; whereupon the three gentlemen alighted, passed through a dark, bare hall (the face of a young woman peered at them for a moment from behind a door), and entered a drawing-room upholstered in the latest fashion.

"So here we are at home again!" exclaimed Nikolai Petrovitch, taking off his cap, and shaking back his hair. "Let us have supper, and then for bed, bed!"

"Yes, something to eat would undoubtedly be welcome," remarked Bazarov as, yawning, he seated himself upon a sofa.

"Quite so; I will have supper served at once." Nikolai Petrovitch, for no apparent reason, tripped over his own feet. "And here comes Prokofitch," he added.

As he spoke entered a man of about sixty who, white-haired, and of thin, swarthy features, was wearing a cinnamon-coloured tail-coat with brass buttons and a crimson collar. He smiled with delight as he approached and shook hands with Arkady. Then, with a bow to the guest, he retired to the doorway, and folded his hands behind his back.

"So here is the young master, Prokofitch!" said Nikolai Petrovitch. "He is home at last. And how, think you, is he looking?"

"Very well, very well," the old man said with another smile. The next moment, however, he knit his shaggy brows, and suggested: "Shall I lay the table?"

"If you please, if you please." Nikolai Petrovitch turned to Bazarov.

"Before supper," he said, "would you care to go to your room?"

"I thank you, no. But please have my trunk conveyed thither, and also this wrap." And Bazarov divested himself of his cloak.

"Certainly. Prokofitch, take the gentleman's cloak."

The old butler received the garment gingerly, held it well away from him with both hands, and left the room on tiptoe.

"And you, Arkady?" continued Nikolai Petrovitch. "Do you not wish to go to your room?"

"Yes; for a wash I should be thankful," was Arkady's reply as he moved towards the door. At that moment it opened to admit a man of medium height who was dressed in a dark English suit, a fashionably low collar, and a pair of patent leather boots. This was Paul Petrovitch Kirsanov. Although forty-five, he had close-cropped grey hair of the sheen of new silver, and his sallow, unwrinkled face was as clear-cut and regular of outline as though carved with a light, fine chisel. Still retaining traces of remarkable comeliness, his bright, black, oblong eyes had a peculiar attraction, and his every well-bred, refined feature showed that symmetry of youth, that air of superiority to the rest of the world which usually disappears when once the twenties have been passed.

Drawing from his trouser pocket a slender hand the long, pink nails of which looked all the slenderer for the snowy whiteness of the superimposed cuff and large opal sleeve-link, he offered it to his nephew; after which, this prefatory European "handshake" over, he thrice kissed Arkady in the Russian fashion—that is to say, touched his nephew's cheek with his perfumed moustache, and murmured: "I congratulate you."

Next Nikolai Petrovitch presented to him Bazarov. Inclining his supple figure with a faint smile, Paul Petrovitch this time did not offer his hand. On the contrary, he replaced it in his pocket.

"I was beginning to think that you never meant to arrive," he said with an amiable hoist of his shoulders and a display of some beautiful white teeth. "What happened to you?"

"Nothing," replied Arkady, "except that we lingered a little. For the same reason are we as hungry as wolves; so pray tell Prokofitch to be quick, Papa, and I shall be back in a moment."

"Wait; I will go with you," added Bazarov as he rose from the sofa; and the two young men left the room together.

"Who is your guest?" asked Paul Petrovitch.

"A friend of Arkady's, and, according to Arkady's showing, a man of intellect."

"He is going to stay here?"

"He is."

"A long-haired fellow like that?"


In that particular direction Paul Petrovitch said no more, but, tapping the table with his finger-nails, added:

"Je pense que notre Arkady s'est dégourdi. And in any case I am pleased to see him back again."

At supper little was said. In particular did Bazarov scarcely speak, though he ate heartily; and only Nikolai Petrovitch proved garrulous as he related various incidents in what he termed his "agricultural life," and gossiped of forthcoming administrative measures, committees, deputations, the need of introducing machinery, and other such topics.

For his part, Paul Petrovitch paced the room (he never took supper), and sipped a glassful of red wine, and occasionally interjected some such remark—rather, exclamation—as "Ah!" or "Oh, ho!" or "H'm!" Arkady's contribution consisted of a little St. Petersburg gossip, even though, throughout, he was conscious of a touch of that awkwardness which overtakes a young man when, just ceased to be a boy, he returns to the spot where hitherto he has ranked as a mere child. In other words, he drawled his phrases unnecessarily, carefully avoided the use of the term "Papasha," and, once, even went so far as to substitute for it the term "Otety"—though, true, he pronounced it with some difficulty. Lastly, in his excessive desire to seem at his ease, he helped himself to more wine than was good for him, and tasted some of every brand. Meanwhile Prokofitch chewed his lips, and never removed his eyes from his young master.

Supper over, the company dispersed.

"A queer fellow is that uncle of yours," Bazarov said to Arkady as, clad in a dressing-gown, he seated himself by his friend's bed, and sucked at a short pipe. "To think of encountering such elegance in the country! He would take a prize with his finger-nails."

"You do not know him yet," said Arkady. "In his day he was a leading lion, and some time or another I will tell you his history. Yes, many and many a woman has lost her head over his good looks."

"Then I should think that he has nothing to live on save memories," observed Bazarov. "At all events, there is no one here for him to enslave. I looked him over to-night, and never in my life have beheld a collar of such marvellous gloss, or a chin so perfectly shaven. Yet such things can come to look ridiculous, do not you think?"

"Yes—perhaps they can. But he is such an excellent fellow in himself!"

"Oh, certainly—a truly archangelic personage! Your father, too, is excellent; for though he may read foolish poetry, and though his ideas on the subject of industry may be few, his heart is in the right place."

"He is a man with a heart of gold."

"Nevertheless, did you notice his nervousness to-night?"

Arkady nodded as though to himself such a weakness was a perfect stranger.

"Curious indeed!" commented Bazarov. "Ah, you elderly Romanticists! You over-develop the nervous system until the balance is upset. Now, good-night. In my room there is an English washstand, yet the door will not shut! But such things (English washstands I mean) need to be encouraged: they represent 'progress.'"

And Bazarov departed, while Arkady surrendered himself to a sensation of comfort. How pleasant was it to be sinking to sleep in one's comfortable home, and in one's own familiar bed, and under a well-known coverlet worked by loving hands—perhaps those of his good, kind, tireless old nurse! And at the thought of Egorovna he sighed, and commended her soul to the Heavenly Powers. But for himself he did not pray.

Soon both he and Bazarov were asleep; but certain other members of the household there were who remained wakeful. In particular had Nikolai Petrovitch been greatly excited by his son's return; and though he went to bed, he left the candle burning, and, resting with his head on his hands, lay thinking deeply.

Also, his brother sat up in his study until nearly midnight. Seated in an ample armchair before a corner where a marble stove was smouldering, he had effected no alteration in his costume beyond having exchanged his patent leather boots for a pair of heelless, red felt slippers. Lastly, he was holding, though not reading, the latest number of Galignani, and his eyes were fixed upon the stove, where a quivering blue spurt of flame kept alternately disappearing and bursting forth again. Whither his thoughts were wandering God only knows; but that they were not meandering through the past alone was proved by the fact that in his expression there was a concentrated gloom which is never in evidence when a man's mind is occupied with memories and no more.

Finally, seated on a chest in a small room at the back of the house, and wearing a blue dressing-jacket and, thrown over her dark hair, a white scarf, was the girl Thenichka. As she sat there she kept listening, and starting, and gazing towards an open door which at once afforded a glimpse of an infant's cot and admitted the sound of a sleeping child's respiration.


  1. Readers should treat details like this as important, no matter how insignificant they may seem. That Nikolai trips over his feet “for no apparent reason” actually suggests that there is something unstable occurring within him. We have seen how he and his son are experiencing tension, so this moment of unsure footing likely represents the confusion taking place within Nikolai’s mind.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. It becomes clear at the end of the chapter that the girl whose face appeared for a moment behind a door at the chapter’s start is the servant Thenichka. Turgenev structures the chapter to create an arc of suspense. A small mystery is introduced at the beginning of the chapter and resolved at the end. This resolution is short-lived, however, for we are immediately introduced to a related, though much larger, mystery: the sleeping infant whom Thenichka watches.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. This passage represents a moment in which the narration draws attention to its own mechanisms. While the narrator tends to track a single scene, here he concludes the chapter by moving through the rooms of Marino, showing the characters in their various states of reflection. There is a peculiar, collage-like quality to this passage.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Galignani’s Messenger was a Paris-based literary journal which published works of contemporary English literature throughout continental Europe in the 19th century. Paul’s reading of the journal is a mark of his education and cultivation.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Bazarov identifies Nikolai as a “romanticist.” Romanticism was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement in the first half of the 19th century. Romantics—or romanticists—emphasize emotion, intuition, and aesthetic experience over the rationality emphasized by the Enlightenment. Romantics such as Nikolai value emotional and aesthetic reactions, exemplified by Nikolai’s spontaneous recitation of Pushkin when beholding the spring landscape.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Bazarov recalls Nikolai’s recitation of Pushkin in the previous chapter as a point of analysis in judging the man’s character. By Bazarov’s estimation, Nikolai’s love for poetry is a detriment to his personality. Nonetheless, Bazarov claims to hold Nikolai in high esteem, calling him “excellent.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The distaste between Bazarov and Paul is mutual. Because Bazarov is unfamiliar with the social fabric of Marino and the relationships between the members of Arkady’s family, he treads lightly at first. Only after praising Paul’s marvelous dress and “perfectly shaven” chin does he turn and call them ridiculous. It is a backhanded compliment.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Bazarov’s comment is clever and carries multiple meanings. In the context of Paul’s past status as a highly desired man, Bazarov means that Paul can no longer “enslave” women with his looks and charm. In the context of land ownership, Paul does not “enslave” anyone in the sense that he does not own land or control peasants to the degree that Nikolai does.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Turgenev’s narrator does not provide us with the inner thoughts of Paul Petrovich in this passage. We’ve previously been allowed access into the thoughts of Arkady, so it is a little unclear why the narrator is not consistent with his point of view here, beyond a simple tactic to try and create a sense of anxiety or apprehension to fuel the plot.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Once again, Paul’s identity is defined by his past. Arkady presents Paul’s virtues in terms of his former glories—namely his once-famous looks, status and his once-promising military career. While these virtues are sufficient to garner Arkady’s adulation, Bazarov is unimpressed.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. That Bazarov claims the English washstands represent progress is important. Among the rise of socialists, nihilists, and other educated liberals at this time, there was a common perception in Russia that Western Europe was the home of advanced progress and civilized society. For Bazarov, Russian goods and systems represent backward views and modes of living.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. “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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. This passage introduces a crucial aspect of Arkady’s development in Fathers and Sons. In many ways, Arkady’s character arc is a coming-of-age narrative. He desires to stand as an equal among his father, his uncle and Bazarov. Throughout the story, Arkady undergoes a series of internal changes as he seeks an adult identity for himself.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Paul is surprised that Bazarov is a house guest due to the young man’s appearance. On the matter of formalities, Paul and Bazarov are opposites. Paul exemplifies the country gentleman and pours much attention into his grooming. Bazarov deems such care ridiculous and, later in the scene, returns the insult behind Paul’s back.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. In this gesture, we encounter the first suggestion of Paul’s distaste for Bazarov. Rather than shaking hands with Bazarov, Paul smiles condescendingly and raises his finger. Paul’s poor opinion of Bazarov proves to be an important source of conflict throughout the novel.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. It is clear from the context of the interaction between Arkady and Paul that their “handshake” is something of a formality. It is “European” and, moreover, placed in quotation marks. It is likely the case that the handshake is an unspoken joke, a formality Paul extends to Arkady to acknowledge the young man’s new status as a university graduate. The formality is quickly followed by a customary and intimate trio of kisses.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. Paul is, in many ways, a character trapped in the past. As the narrator suggests, Paul is defined by the youthful qualities he maintains: his striking looks, his proud demeanor. Yet, as a man entering middle age, Paul clings to such appearances and behaviors to mask his deeper sources of sorrow and regret.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. Prokofitch, the butler of Marino, is described as “swarthy,” a word which suggests a darker complexion of skin.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. This parenthetical statement provides evidence for Turgenev’s omniscient, third-person narrative point of view. It is unclear whether or not the three gentlemen notice the young woman, so readers are left with the impression that Turgenev wants them to know that this young woman is watching the men from a distance. This adds a little tension to the scene since readers are unclear why this woman would be behaving this way.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor