What is Nihilism, with reference to Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and Michel Houellebecq's Whatever?

Since the Industrial Revolution, Western society has enjoyed profoundly better living conditions.  Affordable and easily accessible medicines, movement, commerce, and an overwhelmingly greater sense of freedom are noteworthy examples.  However, paralleling the proliferation of empirical comfort is the decline in ecclesiastical belief.  With the reduction of the old authority - the Christian Church - Western society has experienced a crisis of meaning, and consequently, an increase in the belief in nothing.  In this paper, I will first discuss what it means to believe in nothing, followed by the consequences of such convictions.  I will then highlight and discuss the different ways in which nihilism becomes evident, and influential, through two pieces of literature more than one hundred and thirty years divided.

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