Реферат: Bazarov: a lunatic or visionary?

Vlad Elkis

MOL 316-101

Dr. ElizabethGinzburg

<st1:date Month=«10» Day=«5» Year=«2003» w:st=«on»>October 5, 2003</st1:date>

Bazarov: a lunatic or avisionary?

“Andthe castle made of sand

Meltsinto the sea,


— James Marshall Hendrix

            Ivan Turgenev’sattempt at creating a new Russian contemporary “hero” has yielded a figure ofextremely high complexity, contradiction, and divergence. This character, a mannamed Evgeny Bazarov and the enigma of his person have fueled limitless debateson the true essence of this figure, as it was intended by the author. AsSocrates said, “Amid the argumentation, the truth is found”, so let this modestcontribution to the seemingly endless discussion of Bazarov bring us perhapsone small step closer to the truth about this mysterious man and his trueessence. What is Bazarov? Was he doomed to purgation of his theories, or was hea luminary worthy of respect and credence?

            Evgeny Bazarov was born into afamily of a modest provincial doctor. Turgenev provides no information aboutBazarov’s life before his arrival in Maryino, but it can be guessed that thelife of a less-than-richly endowed medical student in <st1:City w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>St. Petersburg</st1:place></st1:City> must have involved innumerablehardships. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime andPunishment has provided considerable insight into the life of youngscholars at that time, and it is more than reasonable to suspect that Bazarov’slife was no less of a challenge than it was for Dostoyevsky’s RodionRaskolnikov. This austerity of lifestyle, combined with his dedicated academicpursuits, has made Bazarov into a strict empiricist, a staunch practician, anda merciless skeptic. Personal experience became his only acceptable form ofdiscovery. His actions were governed by nothing other than rational reasoning;sentiments and passions were trampled by the ironfisted behemoth of hisunyielding intellect.

            Unfortunately, the power ofBazarov’s mind played a rude joke on the young pseudo-philosopher. His refusalto acknowledge any authority also meant his failure to recognize that perhapshe was not the wisest person in the world. “When I meet a man who can hold hisown beside me, then I’ll change my opinion of myself,”- says Bazarov. Clearly,he is blindly infatuated with the idea of his own greatness. Pavel Kirsanovremarks this trait in Bazarov’s character as “Satanic pride”. Perhaps, thissuper-egotistic obsession with self-righteousness was fueled by his companion,Arkady.

The young Kirsanov, barely twenty-three years of age, apparently hadnot yet formed a sound system of morals and values and was drawn intodiscipleship of nihilism primarily by the power of Bazarov’s charisma and the“freshness” of the nihilists’ ideas, rather than their sensibility. Arkady is aperson lacking character and devoid of an independent intellectual backbone. Heconstantly needs someone’s support and Bazarov just happens to be vivid enougha personality to attract such a simple life form as Arkady. Over the course oftheir friendship, Arkady breathes every word spoken by his sensei, seldomdisplaying signs of independent thought. He delightfully rejects authority, buthis nihilistic fervor is not sincere; Arkady semi-consciously follows hisfriend, who softly and ambiguously ridicules him as a phony, for Bazarov knowsthat Arkady’s subscription to nihilism is very strongly contradicted by his demeanor,and his frequent displays of feelings and emotions. But why does Bazarov notrenounce this friendship? Why does he tolerate the company of Arkady, this dimhypocrite, and why does he agree to travel to Maryino? Well, there was noreason not to. As devoted to work and science as Bazarov was, he saw no harm inspending a little time in the mellow and pleasant country estate of his youngfriends’ parent. Moreover, Bazarov yet again pursues a selfish motive byagreeing to travel to Maryino: he dreads boredom, which would probably consumehim at his true destination, his own parents’ homestead.

Although it appears to be understandable why such an intelligent anddeveloped figure as Bazarov would try to avoid extended periods of exclusivecontact with simpler people – they bore him. But it also seems that Bazarov, ingeneral, feels most comfortable around people who inherently have no capabilityto confront him and question his maximalistic slogans. He enjoys the company ofthe local kids in Maryino and delightfully explains his work in dissectingfrogs; Arkady is his friend because he is harmless; he even tries to seduceFenechka, that shy and timid woman, during his final visit at the Kirsanovs’.One way to explain these gravitational tendencies is by a hypothesis thatBazarov felt vulnerable as a nihilist. The ordinary people around himconstantly challenged his ideas, and Bazarov’s two rudimentary reactions wereto either withdraw and avoid these debates, as it usually was in his encounterswith Pavel Kirsanov, or to engage in all-out verbal melees with his attackers,who oftentimes sound more reasonable than the belligerent nihilist.

Bazarov becomes consumed by his own lies. By so fiercely renouncingauthority, principles, and norms, he contradicts himself. According to him,poetry is a nothing but romantic nonsense, music is a waste of time, admirationof nature is next to hallucinating. Consumed by his fictitious theories,Bazarov fails (or refuses) to realize that by arbitrarily denying these andother naturally existing attributes of the society and people, he disaffirmshis own dedication to empiricism. Bazarov’s belief in chemistry attests to theexact opposite of what he asserts. Chemistry is merely a science that examinesthe interaction between atoms; it does not write the laws of theseinteractions. Similarly, the world is constructed with its principles ofinteractions between people within the society. Therefore, by refusing torecognize the underlying order of the society and becoming a nihilist, Bazarovputs himself in danger of someday facing a painful revelation.

His relentless struggle against the ideals and the idealists hastransformed his very self into an idealist. By attacking all principles alreadyso solidly embedded in the society, he makes himself an author of just anotherset of ideals, values, and principles. “Thou shalt not enjoy the nature, music,poetry, or love! Thou shalt enjoy Stoffund Kraft and chemistry!” is a possible quote relatable to Bazarov throughparaphrasing of his loud claims. But it is strange that such an intelligent manas Bazarov could not understand that by depriving people of their commonsources of enjoyment and happiness, he was sermonizing about a world bound forself-destruction. For it is quite clear that the more harmless sources ofhappiness every person finds in his or her life, the better and safer the worldwill be for the society as a whole.

            Stronglyintoxicated by his own brilliance and without understanding his mistake,Bazarov found the audacity and temerity to question and ridicule the naturalorder of his society at the time. His quest for reform essentially was a tripto the dawn of human race, to the prehistoric times of laissez-faire ethics (orabsence thereof) and an attempt to redesign the law of the world, the law thatconstructed itself over the centuries and evolved as an environmental forcemuch too strong for a simple idealist like Bazarov to engage.

             “Fathers and Sons” is similar to a Sophoclean tragedy, in which the main character, Bazarov,follows a line that involves most of the attributes of a real tragic hero, asoutline in Greek drama: hubris, an anagnorisis, and a catharsis. His hubris wasthe titanic pride and contempt for too many of the world’s principles. Hisunsuccessful relationship with Odintsova, however, forced him to acknowledgethe foolishness of his rash evangelizations. Consistent with his own previousstatement that “he will review his own person when he finds someone who canface him”, Bazarov experiences his anagnorisis when he undergoes a radicalchange of philosophy after all of his nihilistic ideas are put to doubt.Bazarov the Empiricist witnesses empiricallythe dismantling of his longtime theories when he falls in love with the firstperson capable of standing up to him, Anna Odintsova. But tragically, therevelation comes to Bazarov only when he is on his deathbed, losing grip of hismighty intellect. Too late! he acknowledges the truth about his feeble “castlemade of sand that melted into the sea” when he confessed love to Anna.

            Even after yetanother version of the interpretation of Bazarov’s story is presented, it isstill unclear whether Bazarov’s death was an accident or the unshakablenihilist’s deliberate departure from the world he refused to respect andrecognize as his. But what would happen if the doctor whom Bazarov wasassisting during that autopsy didhave the antibiotic to save Bazarov from the typhus infection? Would he abandonhis audacious nihilistic ideals? The answer, I believe, is yes. Bazarovism isan absolutely unsustainable school of thought in human society, and Bazarov’sown example serves as solid evidence for that. Through extrapolation of Evgeny’s persona onto the background of the twentiethcentury, it becomes even clearer that elements like Mr. Bazarov would findthemselves dysfunctional and rejected by the society. Moreover, a Bazarov-likeperson who believes in nothing but the empirical would be exposed to too manyadverse and destructive influences that only our parents’ guidance can helpavoid: drugs, unprotected sex, etc. Therefore, if Turgenev allowed Eugeny to live as an equal member of the society, then justlike Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, he, too, would have abandoned his youthful rageand joined the society of reasonable people.

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