The action takes place in the middle of the 19th century in the Russian Empire.
Very Short Summary
A young man, the son of a landowner, has returned home after his studies and has brought his friend, Bazarov, with him.
Bazarov believed in nothing, respected no one, and quickly turned the older generation against himself.
After a while, thanks to a rich relative, the friends got to the governor's ball, where they met a young, beautiful widow and fell in love with her. The widow invited the friends to her rich estate. There she became infatuated with Bazarov, and the landowner's son became close to her younger sister.
Bazarov did not believe in love and was afraid of the feeling, and the widow did not want to risk her peace. They parted. The friends had to leave. They stayed with the nihilist's parents, then the landlord's son, who never lost hope of conquering the widow, returned to her estate.
Bazarov went to his friend's estate and began courting the landlord's young concubine. The landlord's brother, secretly in love with the concubine, found out about this, challenged Bazarov to a duel, and the latter wounded him in the leg.
After the duel Bazarov had to leave. He visited the widow, reconciled with her, and learned that the landlord's son was in love with her sister. Bazarov realized that their paths diverged, and parted from his friend forever. He returned to his parents, began to treat the peasants and died, contracting typhus. Before he died, he had time to say goodbye to his widow.
Soon the widow got married at the settlement. The landowner's son married her sister, the landowner got married to his cohabitant, and his brother went to Europe for good.
Detailed chapter-by-chapter retelling
The chapter titles are conditional.
Chapters 1-11. Meeting Bazarov
On a hot May day, landlord Nikolai was waiting at the inn for his son, who had graduated from university and was returning home.
Nikolai was born into a general's family, graduated from university, married the daughter of a minor official, and lived with his beloved wife for ten happy years. Widowed, he struggled with grief and was now converting his Maryino estate into a farm.
His son Arkady came with his friend Bazarov, whom he met less than a year ago, but has already managed to become his loyal follower.
Bazarov was an ardent nihilist, he did not recognize authority, denied religion, respected no one, friendship did not exist for him, and he considered love a purely physiological reaction.
A nihilist is a man who bows to no authority, who takes no principle for granted, no matter how much respect that principle may be surrounded by.
Bazarov treated Nikolai indulgently, while his brother, the well-groomed dandy Pavel, was considered an oddball.
Settling in Maryino, Bazarov took up the natural sciences and quickly made friends with the courtiers. The common people trusted Bazarov, though he had a low opinion of them. He only disliked Kirsanov's butler, who was an aristocrat no worse than Pavel. He considered Bazarov a pushover and, like Pavel, treated him with squeamishness.
Because of their differences of opinion, Bazarov and Pavel became irreconcilable enemies and argued constantly. Pavel also disliked Bazarov's appearance and called him hairy. To reconcile his friend with his uncle, Arkady told Bazarov the story of Pavel.
Pavel had been a handsome officer, had won many love victories in St. Petersburg high society, but then he fell in love with Princess R., a strange woman prone to hysteria. The princess quickly grew cold toward Paul, but he could not forget her and pursued her until she began to avoid him. Ten years later the princess died "in a state close to insanity." On learning of this, Paul, who never married, left high society, settled with his widowed brother, and led a measured life "to English tastes."
Arkady tried to convince his friend that Pavel was a good man, but Bazarov believed that such worship of women was "promiscuity, emptiness." For Pavel, principles were important, he lived by his own rules, he loved art. Bazarov recognized only what was useful to mankind, mainly the natural sciences. Literature, music, and even religion he considered absolutely useless and longed to destroy in order to clear a space for something new. Paul was irritated by Bazarov's worldview and his swagger.
Nikolai was upset by his brother's vehement arguments with Bazarov. He saw that the young men treated him condescendingly and laughed at him. The only son did not understand Nikolai and distanced himself from him.
One day Nicholas received an invitation from a relative, a wealthy official, who had come to the nearest town for an inspection. Nikolai and Pavel refused to go, and Bazarov suggested that Arkady go instead.
Chapters 12-19. Meeting Odintsova, Bazarov's love
A wealthy relative advised Arkady to go and visit the governor, and he invited his friends to his ball. There they met Odintsova.
Arkady became infatuated with her, and Odintsova became interested in Bazarov, a man who believes in nothing. Bazarov, on the other hand, spoke cynically about Odintsova: he did not allow "freedom of thought in women," which greatly displeased Arkady.
Odintsova was the daughter of a famous gambler-confident and impoverished aristocrat, received a "brilliant education" in St. Petersburg. Her parents died early, leaving her and her younger sister "a tiny fortune." Odintsova married a rich old man, was his faithful wife for seven years, and on widowhood, became mistress of a large estate Nikolskoye. There were bad rumors about her in the province, but she let them pass her ears.
Odintsova invited friends to stay in Nikolskoye. They stayed there for fifteen days. Odintsova talked more with Bazarov: this cold woman, he attracted something. She treated shy in front of her Arkady as a younger brother and he began to seek solace in his friendship with her sister Katya.
Bazarov, on the other hand, was always troubled, angry, and very distant from his friend.
Gradually the cynical Bazarov realized that he, a nihilist, was in love, and this threw him off balance.
... it was not the trembling of youthful timidity, it was not the sweet terror of his first confession that seized him: it was a passion beating within him, strong and heavy - a passion similar to malice and, perhaps, akin to it...
A servant of Bazarov's parents came to Nikolskoe: they lived nearby and were very anxious to see their son. Bazarov decided to take advantage of this pretext and leave. He informed Odintsova. She did not want Bazarov to leave. He confessed his love for her, but Odintsova was afraid of his passion and did not respond to it, not to risk her peace.
Soon Bazarov and Arkady left Nikolskoe.
Chapters 20-22. Visiting Bazarov's parents, returning to Maryino
Bazarov's aged parents were poor landlords. His father, a retired regimental physician, had formerly served under his grandfather Arkady; his mother was a noblewoman, kind, pious, and superstitious.
The only son was worshipped by the old men, but feared. Bazarov loved his parents, but treated them with respect: he had almost no contact with his mother, ridiculed his father's old habits and visited them rarely - he was bored in the village.
When you look ... from afar at the deaf life that "fathers" lead here, it seems: what is better? Eat, drink and know that you are doing ... in the most reasonable manner. But no, it's the boredom that overcomes. I want to mess with people...
Bazarov was angry at Odintsova, but was proud that this "woman" had not broken him. Arkady liked his friend's reasoning less and less, and when Bazarov called Pavel an idiot, they almost fought.
Three days later, Bazarov got bored and left, greatly upsetting his parents. In Maryin, Bazarov returned to dissecting frogs. Arkady tried to help his father, whose economic affairs were going badly, but he could not immerse himself in the problems of the estate, because he was constantly thinking about Odintsova.
One day he learned that his late mother had corresponded with Odintsova's mother, forced his father to find these letters, and decided to use them as a pretext for a visit to Nikolskoye. After staying at home for ten days, Arkady left, and Bazarov remained in Maryin.
Chapters 23-24. Bazarov's Duel
Bazarov was studiously studying science. He no longer argued with Pavel and allowed him to observe scientific experiments, but their mutual dislike did not diminish. Nikolai visited Bazarov often and tried to study.
Nikolai cohabited with the daughter of the deceased housekeeper, Fenechka, and had a son by her.
With her Bazarov communicated most readily, and she trusted him. Pavel was afraid of Fenechka: he watched her and often appeared silently behind her back.
Bazarov liked the pretty young woman. One morning, catching Fenechka alone in the gazebo, Bazarov kissed her. In the afternoon Pavel challenged Bazarov to a duel, reticent as to the reason for it. However, Bazarov realized that he was summoned to the duel because of Fenechka, and suspected that Pavel was in love with her.
Each of them was aware that the other understood him. To friends this consciousness is pleasant, and quite unpleasant to foes, especially when one can neither explain nor separate.
They were shot without seconds. Bazarov wounded Pavel in the leg and rendered first aid to the wounded man.
By evening Pavel began to have a fever and delirium. He said that Fenechka resembled Princess R., he loved "this creature" and would not allow "any insolent person to dare touch her." Nikolai never realized that these words refer not to Princess R., but to his Fenechka.
The next day Bazarov left. Pavel found out that Fenechka did not want that kiss, and asked Nikolai to get married as soon as possible.
Chapters 25-28. Bazarov dies alone, Arkady marries Katya
Arkady and Katya grew closer and closer. He was freed from Bazarov's influence, and the girl liked it: she felt that Arkady's strange friend was alien to them.
Bazarov went to Nikolskoye to inform Arkady of the duel and immediately realized that his friend had changed, and their ways diverged. Bazarov talked to Odintsova, and they convinced each other that "love is a contrived feeling," and they were all imagined. He told her that Arkady was in love with her and treated Katya fraternally. Odintsova was flattered by this.
Arkady and Katya overheard the conversation. The young man was just confusingly explaining his love for the girl. What he heard made him determined - he proposed to Katya, and she said yes. Odintsova let her sister marry, began to rejoice in the happiness of the lovers, and they soon forgot about the inadvertently overheard conversation.
Bazarov said goodbye to Arkady forever and went to his parents. In the village he got bored, abandoned his science and spent the whole of August treating the local peasants.
Participating in the autopsy of a peasant who died of typhus, Bazarov was infected and fell ill. Realizing that he was dying, he asked them to send for Odintsova. She arrived with her doctor, but he could not help. Bazarov had time to say goodbye to the only woman he truly loved.
- Goodbye," he uttered with sudden force, and his eyes gleamed with a last gleam. - Farewell... Look... for I did not kiss you then... Blow on the dying lamp, and let it go out...
Odintsova kissed Bazarov on the forehead - he fell asleep and never woke up again.
Six months later Arkady married Katya, and Nikolai married Fenechka. Paul left immediately after the weddings and settled in Dresden. Arkady took over the farm, and the farm began to bring in a solid income. Katya gave birth to a son. Nikolai got into mediators and was constantly on the move.
Odintsova married "not out of love, but out of conviction" to a still young, clever, kind, but ice-cold man, a lawyer, "one of the future Russian activists. They lived together amicably and, perhaps, would live to love.
Bazarov was buried in a small village cemetery. To his grave the old parents often came, supporting each other, and prayed sadly for a long time.
The retelling is based on edition of the novel from Turgenev's Collected Works in 30 Volumes (M.: Nauka, 1981).