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In this novel, the protagonist is clearly Bazarov. The entire novel revolves around him. There is a clear-cut development of his character in the novel. He has been structured as an intellectual, superior being, who firmly believes in the basics of Nihilism.
Arcady too is an important character in the novel, but his personality is neither as strong nor as effective as Bazarovís. Arcady is a more dependant character. Bazarovís influence on Arcady, as well as the other people around him is impressive. He manages to convey his hypnotic personality over the reader, without much ado.
Though there is no evil character in the novel, who would create problems or crisis for the plot, it can be said that Paul Kirsanov is an antagonist to Bazarov. He dislikes him tremendously and doesnít lose a chance to snub him or rail at him.
Paul Kirsanov is depicted as a semi-pathetic character, wallowing in his past love and disinterested in any change in his suave lifestyle. Bazarovís presence therefore is the proverbial fly in the ointment, for him. Bazarov and Paul have a continual verbal duel going on between them, which in fact, even continues to become a physical duel.
The climax of the novel is reached when Bazarov, who always considered himself above all menial feelings like love, falls passionately in love with Anna and is consequently rebuffed by her. Bazarov is unable to reach to this change in his own persona, which he thought he knew so well and is a defeated man.
What happens thereafter is ordained. Bazarov, a crushed man, returns to his parentís house and tries to lead a solitary life, devoted to medicine. He has no more interest left in love or life now. A final attempt at renewing his relationship with Anna turns out to be in vain and he returns home. His parents are obviously delighted to have him back in their fold. But he falls prey to his own doctrines and dies a patient of typhus.