Attitude Towards Women Fathers and Sons

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To analyze the attitudes towards the women question and the most useful starting point would be to look at the representation of the liberated woman, Yevdoxia Kukshina, which can be contrasted with the representation of Bazarov’s mother or Nikolai Kirsanov’s wife, the women ideals of the older generation. Kukshina is clearly meant to the representative of the radicalism of the 1850s to1860s, “the progressive, advanced or educated woman : nigilistka or nihilist woman” (Richard Stites). She has ‘vowed to defend the rights of women to the last drop of my blood’ and is scornful of Sand ‘an out of date woman’. She has separated from her husband and plans to go abroad to study in Paris and Heildelberg. She thus, personifies the emergence of new objectives and tactics among the Russian emancipees of the early 1860s. However, it is also quite obvious that while much has been written about Turgenev’s attitude towards his nihilist hero, there is no doubt that the female nihilist Kukshina is an unflattering caricature and as Walter Smyrniw quotes “Turgenev has deliberately portrayed Kukshina as a ludicrous and repulsive emancipee.” Walter goes on to argue that in his portrayal of Kukshina, Turgenev lampooned only certain undesirable tendencies generated by Russian emancipees. The worst among them was a lack of genuine involvement, an inadequate commitment to the movement itself. Some merely assumed the roles of the emancipated women and hence their behaviour was both contrived and unnatural. Although many critics have argued along the same lines of Turgenev’s portrayal of Kukshina as a device for irony “the progressive louse which Turgenev combed out of Russian reality” (Dostoevsky) and that he has assumed the same sentiment in respect to Russian men who merely assumed the pose of materialists and nihilists (eg. Sitnikov), it is hard to escape that in the description of her person and household we find some of the stereotyping of radical women found in most conservative...
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