Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Origins and Adultery

In keeping with the tail end of Scott’s post, I’ve also been thinking a lot about characters’ origins and how Tolstoy’s been playing with locales as a means of characterization and social commentary.  It seems significant to me that the Vronskys, upper-crust characters of debatable moral fiber, are from St. Petersburg, while Levin, a lower-class noble but an ultimately more sympathetic character, prefers country life, kasha, and peasant traditions to the conventions of high society.  I especially enjoyed Vronsky’s conversation with Levin where he expressed that all Muscovites “have something edgy about them” and “keep rearing up for some reason, getting angry, as if they want to make you feel something,” and  the inclusion of the passage where Kitty’s father describes Vronsky as a “little fop from Petersburg” who’s been “made by machine”.  We’ve also come across the trope of the wealthy noble selling off country estates to pay his debts in the form of Prince Oblonsky, who is also wrapped up in the business of city life, government work, and adultry.  At the very least, Tolstoy seems to be critiquing the nobility’s disconnect from their Russian roots; beyond this, it seems he is equating urban life with mechanization, modernization, and the importation of European culture, all processes which he portrays as corrupting and antithetical to traditional Russian  life. 

I also think Tolstoy is trying to draw parallels between adultery and the adoption of European customs and culture.  I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Stiva cheats on Dolly with the French governess, and I also think it’s significant that a good number of the Russian princesses have adopted European nicknames.  Beyond this, the periodic inclusion of lines spoken in French and English seems to contrast with the many allusions to Puskin (some accurate, others not so much).  SO.  What do you guys think?  Do you see any other ways Tolstoy plays with setting or concepts of Russian national identity in his characterizations?   

Choo Choo

Tolstoy introduces the image of the train early in Anna Karenina and it seems like they will play an important role in the novel.  Vronsky and Anna first meet at the train station and see a man crushed by the train—which Anna sees as a bad omen.  Trains are typically connected with modernization and Tolstoy could be employing them to give modern overtones to Vronsky and Anna’s budding infatuation.  Despite not emphasizing generational differences to the degree of Turgenev, Tolstoy does suggest that love and conceptions of marriage are changing and this is causing a great deal of confusion for many.  He represents this in particular with the Shcherbatsky’s and Kitty’s decision about whom to marry.  The image of the train does give a very modern overtone to the start of Anna and Vronsky’s relationship and makes it clear that their relationship will not be a traditional arrangement. 

Train imagery also reinforces the notion that this is a novel about the aristocracy.  It reinforces the wealth they have at their disposal and is key in developing the role of setting, particularly the role of Moscow vs. St. Petersburg that we talked about in class. If we take Levin as a stand-in for Tolstoy then it does appear that so far Tolstoy is suggesting that the village is superior to the city.  I know other Russian authors have used trains to represent modernization and the conflict it sparks between the city and village and I think it will be interesting to see how Tolstoy negotiates these dynamics, as well as the differences between Petersburg and Moscow. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Now and then

I have read both Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina before, when I was about 14-15 years old and it seems amazing to me how much my perspective changed. I did not look so much into Raskolnikov's reasons for murdering the old lady and I remember completely buying his theory about the old crone. Also, I thought his relationship with Sonya was all about true love and pure emotions.
As we are now starting to read Anna Karenina, I feel ambivalent towards it. The last time I read it I was highly prejudiced against Anna, but I also profoundly disliked Vronsky. The only character I liked and pitied was Levin, though most of the passages about his life in the country bored me terribly. As I am re-entering the universe of this book again and trying to pretend not to have read it before, I have a different perception of Anna and I am more indulgent of her.
Maybe it is because we are reading these books in a class, but I am also paying much more attention to details and I find new meanings in small things, which I did not do years ago. In some way, it feels as if I am reading a different book, as if Tolstoy or Dostoevsky had severely edited parts of their novels in the past years and now I am reading the new, updated version.

Have you read any of the books we have been reading in this class before?If so, how is your perception of the characters different? Do you like them more or less? Are there symbols that you notice now and you didn't notice the first time?

Photo sources:

Pulcheria Alexandrovna: Purpose?

Throughout the novel, we come across many different characters, each representing a theme, are a foil of Raskolnikov in some way, and serve a purpose to understanding the novel. We have discussed some of these purposes in class. For example, Razumikhin shows the loveable, friendly side that Raskolnikov could achieve if Raskolnikov had money. Sonya, the religious, meek woman character, saves Raskolnikov with religion and eventually makes him a part of society with his inability to part from her. Dunya, Raskolnikov’s sister, is very intelligent and similar to Raskolnikov in many ways, however, Dunya is able to show compassion to her family and other people while Raskolnikov can not.

Although all of the mentioned characters play an essential role in the novel, I could not pinpoint why Raskolnikov’s mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna, was part of the novel. She seems to have a purpose in the beginning when she writes Raskolnikov a letter explaining that Dunya has agreed to marry Luzhin in order to help Raskolnikov with his money problems. She reappears later after Razumikhin has committed the two murders but never really brings anything new to the novel except for concern for Razumikhin. Razumikhin seems to easily dismiss his mother and sister with out ever looking back.

My thought is that Pulcheria and his sister are there to ground Razumikhin to reality. Razumikhin goes in and out of reality throughout the book and by easily dismissing his sister and mother he tries to get rid of any part of his life that connects him to society, and further, reality. Do you agree? What other reasons do you think Pulcheria is a part of the novel? 

Crime or Punishment?

As we are now done with Crime and Punishment, I feel like now is as good a time as any to reflect on the title. I, for one, am a bit curious as to why Doestoevsky would title his novel in such a way. We've had points in the course so far where we've questioned titles (e.g., The Captain's Daughter, A Hero of Our Time), yet I'm surprised that none of us did so about this novel in large-group discussion.

On one hand, this novel is most certainly centered around one man's murders and the events that ensued afterwards, ultimately leading up to his confession at the end and his punishment in Siberia in the epilogue. However, the “punishment” in and of itself is only in the epilogue, a part that we discussed was added on a year after the novel was released. So in it's original form, the novel really didn't have a punishment if we think about it in that way.

However, I would like to pose the idea that the punishment was actually the internal, psychological suffering that Raskolnikov seemingly went through for the entire novel. The crime itself, while central to the novel, occurred early on, so we really have the bulk of the novel left to give a theme to, and I think that “punishment” is an excellent label for that theme. Through his paranoia and unhealthy mental state, we see a very psychologically fragile mind that seems to get taxed more and more with each encounter, whether the person has reason to suspect him of murder or not. This punishment manifests itself in practically every aspect of Raskolnikov's life, severely affecting his functionality as a person and seriously  straining his social relationships.

Is the anguish and torment that Raskolnikov went through due to his actions a true punishment, or is his Siberian labor the only punishment for him? Does his religious conversion at the end redeem him or atone for his crime? Or should the novel have a different title that better reflects its themes?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Opening lines to Anna Karenina

I love the epigraph to Anna Karenina (Мне отмщение, и Аз воздам, Vengeance is mine, I will repay) because it gives the reader a lot to think about. Who is “I,” first and foremost? God? Tolstoy? Karenin? Anna?

The oft-quoted opening sentence to Anna Karenina, however, does little for me as a reader.  The sentence reads, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I will never understand the appeal of this sentence and why it is quoted so frequently.  It’s not even remotely true.
What say you?

Sonya and Raskolnikov

Although at times in Crime and Punishment I felt that Sonya and Raskolnikov were an odd pairing, they made sense for each other. We often described Sonya as weak, but I didn't believe that was her whole character. She could be strong and supportive. Raskolnikov also embodied both traits. They had to come together in the novel to change both of their lives for the better.

Sonya was the only person who could help Raskolnikov change. She listened to him as he told her that he murdered, and she didn't even leave him after finding out that he killed her friend, Lizaveta. She followed him to Siberia to show her dedication. Although moving to Siberia for many years seems extreme, it shows Raskolnikov that someone will always be there for him. Just seeing support helps someone recover and change. Additionally, she brought about his gradual conversion, and helped him to become more rational. Her symbolic passing of the cross showed her commitment to Raskolnikov. If Raskolnikov had not had Sonya in his life, he never could have had the strength or rationality to consider religion as an outlet for his sins.

Similarly, Sonya needed Raskolnikov to escape a life of destitution and prostitution. He could support her to get out of the career that she was in. She even made the leap to owning her own sewing business. Granted, her changes were more subtle. She still depended on men to take of her and never became an independent woman. She also ended the book as a major character that we know little about. Her beliefs were strong, she was sometimes weak, and she cared about Raskolnikov were about all that we knew. 

Together, the two were better off than alone. They had to lean heavily on each other to make any changes in either of their lives. They helped each other find their own versions of "truth" and what is good. Even without a strong bond of love, even in a relationship of convenience, these two made sense.

Do you believe that Sonya and Raskolnikov love or could ever love each other?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Role of Clothing in Crime and Punishment

I've been struck with Dostoevsky's clothing descriptions throughout the novel. At times when he introduces a new character I feel as though I get a better feeling for what they are wearing than what physical features they possess. For example, a huge part of what I know about Luzhin is rooted in the first description I get of him which focuses on his nice clothing (resembling a dandy) and particularly his purple gloves. Therefore, while I don't have a very clear picture in my head about what he looks like physically, whenever he is part of the book I remember the purple gloves, which then signifies decadence and narcissism, which capture much of how I feel about Luzhin.

In paying so much attention to clothing, I consider Dostoevsky to be doing a couple of things. First of all, Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment clearly presents issues of class and poverty, of which clothing can be a direct reflection. Secondly, I think that Dostoevsky is also exploring the relationship between an individual and society, which is a larger theme of the book with several manifestations. Particularly in relation to Raskilnikov's theory of extraordinary and ordinary people. Being extraordinary or ordinary, for Raskilnikov, has nothing to do with social status or outward social legitimization, but is an inward and individual characteristic. Similarly, Dostoevsky appears to glorify destitution in some ways. Those characters with stronger character are the poorer, less well dressed characters on the whole.

Mostly, I just get the sense that Dostoevsky's attention to dress is not coincidental, but is a major aspect of his overall project in the novel.

Have any of you also noticed Dostoevsky's attention to clothing? Do you see other connections or larger implications between his description of clothing and themes of the novel?

Sunday, February 19, 2012


In the past two parts of Crime and Punishment many seemingly unimportant characters that were briefly mentioned in the beginning of the novel reappear in Raskolnikov’s closet. This cycle begins early on in the novel with the arrival of Luzhin, but unlike later characters Luzhin entrance is somewhat expected; Raskolnikov knows that Luzhin is in Saint Petersburg and thus its is not outstanding that he seeks out Raskolnikov. What struck me as most unexpected is the arrival of Svidrigailov at the end of part three. Yes, Svidrigailov was mentioned in the mother’s letter but I would have hardly guessed that he would come to play such a key role. Honestly when he showed up I had no clue who he was and had to flip back to the letter. This reemergence parallels Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter when Pytor by chance runs into all of his former acquaintances again.

What seems even more unlikely to me is that, of all of the places in Saint Petersburg, Svidrigailov happens to rent the room adjacent to Sonya’s. Regarding Svidrigailov, one thing that I found interesting is that narrator informs the reader not only that Svidrigailov lives next door to Sonya but also that he eavesdrops on Sonya’s conversations. When Raskolinkov visits Sonya for the first time the narrator notes “Sonya had long been used to considering this room uninhabited. And meanwhile, all that time, Mr. Svidrigailov had been standing by the door in the empty room and stealthily listening” (330). The narrator for a brief period of time becomes omniscient and enlightens the reader with knowledge that Raskolnikov himself does not know. It is only after the ruckus of the memorial meal and street scene when Raskolnikov realizes this eavesdropping.

In my opinion, Dostoevsky toys with the idea of fate and chance to the extreme. In some sense this realistic story seems mythic. The more coincidences occur, the more I am reminded that this book is fiction.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crazy or confused?

Somehow I feel like I subconsciously disagree with everyone in the class that says Raskolnikov is crazy. It is true that he comes of as somehow mentally disturbed, and Dostojevski made a great effort to make him sound as though he’s crazy, but I was not particularly convinced.
Dostojevski described Raskolnikov’s mind and thought process in great detail, which is why, I think, people might consider him irrational. The thoughts, views, opinions and judgments that go through his head, when vocalized, would make everyone think he’s ready for the insane asylum. But that’s exactly the point, the man never articulates his most inner and intimate thoughts and neither does anyone else in this world. Most of these thoughts are just passing ideas that never even take form in reality. It’s all very stream-of-consciousness-esque and I’m quite certain we would find every single one of us at least slightly disturbed, if we could look into each other’s head for as much as five minutes.

To me it seemed more like Raskolnikov wants to be crazy, or at least be perceived by society as crazy, when he, in fact, is not. He’s just a confused individual, whose mind is trapped inside some adolescent idea that he can’t shake. He wants to be special, he wants to be someone, opposed to being a part of the herd, which is a strangely romantic notion due to the fact this book is considered to be written in the style of psychological realism.

In my opinion the only reason he actually commits the murder is because he wants to prove once and for all that he is special, or forever give up that notion. Somehow he got the idea in his head that homicide is the only way he can achieve that, so I think in his head the idea of killing a person and thus proving his “worth” to himself and everyone around him became so abstracted from the actual act of murder that he didn’t even realize what he was doing until the deed was done. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unconsciousness and Guilt in Parts I & II of Crime & Punishment

           I’ve been struck by Raskolnikov’s illness, and especially his extreme fatigue that peaks right after the commits the murders. The fever state and lapses into unconsciousness that Raskolnikov continues to experience seem like an unusual reaction to me. I feel like guilt in modern popular culture is often associated with hyperawareness and insomnia, as the guilty party worries that at any moment society will turn against them. These criminals display anxiety because they are extremely conscious of society and the expected response to the violation of its rules.  Raskolnikov, on the other hand, withdraws completely and sometimes literally, as he loses hours and entire days to unconsciousness. How do we reconcile Raskolnikov’s actions and reactions? 
            It’s clear that Raskolnikov was never particular tied to societal norms. He spend the first part of the novel wandering, and we learn that he has deserted his studies and pays no attention to money. He also doesn’t seem to accept the fairly logical conclusion that his inattention to fiscal responsibilities will affect his mother and sister. In this context, Raskolikov’s literal withdrawal from consciousness after his crime seems to be an exaggeration of the disconnect he felt before.
            Given all this, I’ve been wondering if we can really class Raskolnikov’s reaction to the double murder as guilt. He’s definitely worried that someone will discover evidence linking him to the crime, but at other moments he confesses to the murders. If Raskolnikov lacks a need to participate in a abide by the expectations of society, can he still feel guilty? And if not guilt, what do you think is motivating Raskolnikov's strong physical reaction to his crime? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alcohol Use in Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment is the first novel we've read that has dealt with alcoholism and other problematic consequences of drinking.  When Raskolnikov wanders around the city in a stupor, he's described as looking like a drunk.   He doesn't actually drink much, but when he does it has consequences.  Early on, we are introduced to Marmeladov, a prideful alcoholic who has ruined his family by spending all their money on his habit, forcing Sonya into prostitution to support the family.  Despite forcing his family into destitution, Marmeladov still stubbornly justifies his behavior.  As we find out in Part II, Marmeladov's death is the fault of his drinking: he is run over by a carriage.

The second time Raskolnikov is mentioned drinking, he passes out outside and has a dream, which also deals with alcohol.  He recalls his childhood fear of drunk people, and in his dream he sees a drunk mob beating an old horse to death.  In this dream alcohol seems to unleash the very worst in people.  No wonder Raskolnikov is afraid of it. 

Other characters are also victimized by alcohol.  The young girl Raskolnikov finds wandering in the street in Chapter IV, who he pays the police officer to take home, is described as drunk to the point of not being aware of her surroundings.  The woman who Raskolnikov sees attempting suicide in Part II, Chapter VI is also described as drunk.

The only character who seems to drink without negative consequences so far is Razumikhin, who is arguably the most moral and good-natured character we've met so far.  He is described as "almost incapable of getting really drunk," (189) and while he does let slip that Zamyotov and the other police inspectors had considered Raskolnikov as a suspect, he is the only character so far who has not victimized or been made a victim by alcohol.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Science: Why is it a focus?

I’ll restrict these comments to Turgenev’s Fathers and Children and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: Part 1.

            Science does not play a subtle narrative. In both of the aforementioned novels it is explicitly referenced and placed intentionally – to the point where it is clear that it is not simply mentioned in passing.  Turgenev’s displays his view of science via Bazarov, the scientist and nihilist, and they are much connected. Although we know Bazarov changes his views and, to some extent, unlearns his nihilist tendency before he dies, the process is significant. At one point, Bazarov says in response to Anna Sergeevna question how to understand people, “So called moral qualities are also shared by everyone: small variations don’t mean a thing. A single human specimen’s sufficient to make judgments about all the rest. People are like trees in a forest; no botanist would study each birch individually” (pg. 67). But is each individual reducible to a set of parts? This is the main thrust of Turgenev. Bazarov’s nihilism agrees with this reducibility in that we, everything, become mechanisms, void of unique feeling and interpretation. It stands in contrast to convictions and beliefs, which is why Pavel Petrovich’s principles and respect of art as an item of higher significance clash so heavily with it. In this way, Turgenev links nihilism and science, via a belief that everything can be logically assessed (its necessary foundation), and sets them in contrast those immeasurable, irreducible values, such as the bond of family and love.
            Dostoevsky prefers a less amiable approach to this subject. Two quotations highlight his sentiment. The first is from his Marmeladov, who says, “compassion if forbidden nowadays by science itself” (pg. 12). The second comes from Raskalnikov, Dostoevsky writes (and thinks), “A percentage! What splendid words they have; they are so scientific, so consolatory… once you said ‘percentage’ there’s nothing more to worry about.” (pg. 49) Now, without fully diving into how both of these characters individually present the inherent flaw in science’s attempt to explain the world, it should be clear that Dostoevsky is troubled by what is lost by the introduction of a scientific view of life. Compassion and unnatural consolation are a part of the list, but in general, what appears to be in critique is the notion of meaning. And, can we have meaning when we assume that precise measurements, percentages, logical planning can evaluate everything?
            Dostoevsky and Turgenev’s criticisms of science and its growing influence are very similar. Perhaps Turgenev’s is slightly softer, as if to admit that scientific approaches will be a factor the older generation must partially incorporate. Nonetheless, both writers are acutely aware of the distinctions they must make in order to create full characters and expound on their conceptions of life and world around them. Turgenev writes at the end, “Can it really be that love, scared, devoted love is not all-powerful? Oh, no!” (pg. 163) The disconnect between scientific description, and emotions and convictions, such as love or fate, is not lost on these two writers. We will soon see more of Raskalnikov and Dostoevsky’s mindset, and my sense is that the convictions and beliefs will be emphasized.

Raskolnikov and reality

So far, Raskolnikov has more or less thrown social conventions and laws aside and has done whatever he wants. He considers himself better than other people (for example, the drunk man) and thus sees himself as being above the law and above societal conventions, and his pride prevents him from being able to understand or relate to other people. In some ways, he seems to live outside of our common sense of reality. Despite having moments of clear-headedness and sensibility, he doesn’t seem to think about possible consequences of his actions and rationalizes his wrong-doings in order to feel good about them. He seems to see other people as expendable for his benefit. For example, he rationalizes the murder of two innocent people by his poverty.

However, his emotional instability and frenzied behavior, particularly immediately after the murders, leads the reader to think that maybe he has more “human” in him than he thought. Maybe in the coming sections, he will realize that he’s not as different as he thought and become guilty about his actions. Or maybe he will go the other way and disassociate himself even farther from reality than he was. What do you think?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Narration in Russian Novels and Stuff

Except for Fathers and Children, all the books we have read so far contain a shift in narration. Each author uses a character or characters within the story to change the voice of the book for a little bit. In A Hero of Our Time, Lermontov uses a journal to allow the reader to access Pechorin's thoughts. He also has Maxim Maxymich tell the reader about Pechorin so that the reader obtains an outside view of the man. Dostoevsky uses narration differently in Crime and Punishment. When the voice shifts in C & P it is to get away from a narrator that can already tell the reader about Raskolnikov's thoughts. The story that Marmeladov tells to Raskolnikov is one that takes the reader from the woes of the main character to those of someone just introduced into the story. Marmeladov speaks in a very flowery and formal manner that is quite entertaining. On top of that, his story introduces the theme of women making sacrifices for their relatives which comes up the next time the narrator changes in the story. Raskolnikov recieves a letter from his mother; she informs him that (among other things) his sister is getting married (making a sacrifice) in order to give him a chance to make something of himself. The letter is a refreshing change from the intensity of following Raskolnikov around. The mother writes in a very peaceful and optimistic way, while the regular narrator concentrates on Raskolnikov who is consistently intense and often cynical. The style difference is drastic.

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from all the narration changes. Perhaps it means that Russian authors had a good grasp of effective literary techniques. There is barely any narration change in The Captain's Daughter; only the editor's note at the end breaks from Pyotr's memoirs. Russian novelists on the whole did not rely on narration change to move their stories forward, but many of them did use it to make their stories more interesting. 

I included a map of Saint Petersburg c. 1860 because it is interesting. I can't find any of the places Raskolnikov mentions, but it is nice to see the shape of the city. It also makes this post look nicer...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Distinctiveness and Nihilism

     One of the most striking aspects of the younger men in Fathers and Sons has to be their distinctiveness in light of what brings them together. Bazarov is the unifying figure between himself, Arkady, and Sitnikov, and with a philosophical figurehead you might expect a great deal of unity of thought and/or action. And yet instead we are treated to some fairly different persons. This isn't a loss at all for us as readers, of course, given that it would be hard to stand more than one Bazarov or Sitnikov. It also natural that a movement, even a nihilist one, is going to have both leaders and followers as a function of the unique skills and character of the various individuals. However, you have Arkady with his love of music and the outdoors, Sitnikov with his funny friends and generally awkward social life, and Bazarov with his scientific inquries. It can be hard to recognize them as pieces in the same movement at all.

     At first I thought that this mix of characters was a result of Turgenev's moderate outlook between generations. He certainly seems to try and give the generation both its sympathetic and unlikeable folks. I've started to wonder though, if you actually need this mixture to get at the heart of what nihilism is and what it is not. If you have characters who believe (or try to believe, or claim to believe...want to believe) that there is no greater truth or value behind things, then it is always going to be difficult to choose actions for them. If you don't believe in anything then you are really free to act in any way whatsoever. If we only had one figure interested in nihilism, then Turgenev wouldn't have been able to show that that character's actions aren't the only option available to a nihilist. For that reason I think that Turgenev gives a more fair representation of nihilists by providing a couple different examples, even given that we lose two of them through the course of the novel. It reflects, to me, a deeper involvement in working out the philosophy of the younger generation than it might appear to at first.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not Only a Watch

I'm interested in the few moments where Turgenev flashes back into long accounts of a character's background (or, at the end, forward into their futures). The first instance of this occurs right at the start of the book, with a present-tense introduction of Nikolai which soon darts into the past. We hear about his father and his birth, and then about his mother, who "belonged to a group of 'lady commandants;' she wore splendid caps and silk dresses that rustled"(4). Turgenev gives us the same kind of life-story of Pavel, who, in his youth "rarely spent an evening at home...(he was making gymnastics fashionable among young people in society) and had read a total of some five or six books in French"(22). And for Odintsova, whose aunt "growled and grumbled from morning to night, and wouldn't even go out for walks in the garden unless accompanied by her one servant, a gloomy footman in worn, pea-green livery with light blue braid, and a three cornered hat"(59).

Notice that, between broader reports of life events, Turgenev almost comically injects strangely specific details: the dresses that rustled, the five (or six) books in French, the three cornered hat. These details seem to inhabit--and perhaps mock--these characters' views of themselves: we can imagine Pavel being very proud of his five or six French books, and we instantly understand that rustle signify a kind of material authority (I wonder, too, if Turgenev is entering Nikolai's childhood viewpoint here, too).

These asides offer us basic information about these characters--quickly, too, which is important in such a short novel (strange, because it doesn't feel short at all). Importantly, they are not mainly about the "fathers and sons" who have leading roles in the boo; they are about side characters. They fill in the book's general title--it is not only about the central fathers and children: every character, Turgenev reminds us, is someone's child and, abstractly if not literally, will go on to influence the next generation. Just as the vivid details Turgenev injects into their lives will go on to affect our perceptions of them. Who, at book's end, can forget about even the serf Peter, whose wife "turned down offers from two fine suitors because neither of them owned a watch, whereas Peter owned not only a watch but also a pair of patent leather boots"(155). How those boots must matter to his wife! A final detail like that cuts through the book's array of ideologies and parallel conflicts to give the novel a freedom that, like Bazarov's grave, is more enduringly ambiguous.