In “The Darling”, Anton Chekhov pairs a critical narrator with a static, one-dimensional main character to make a point about women in 19th century Russian society. He portrays Olenka as a woman who acquires her self-identity and sense of self-worth by making her current husband’s ideas her own, and he uses a narrator who continually criticizes Olenka for not having a thought on her own. Chekhov implies that truly interesting women achieve social and intellectual equality to men. The story’s main character, Olenka, however, possesses enough beauty to attract many men yet loses them to fate.
Olenka acquires her self-identity and sense of self-worth by many making her current husband’s ideas as her own. Her naïve, repetitious cloning of thoughts jumps from man to man. Her first husband, Ivan Petrovitch or Kukin, was a manager at the open- aired theater called the Trivoli, and although Olenka handled the accounts and paid the wages she still fell victim to her mimic tendencies. “And what Kukin said about the theatre and the actors she repeated” (Chekhov 106). Allowed an additional opportunity from the author, to start again on her own, Olenka marries once more, this time, to Vassily Andreitch Pustovalo, a manager at Babakayev’s, a timber merchant. Yet again, she oversaw the accounts and books orders but opts to simply mirror her second husband’s behavior. “Her husband’s ideas were hers. If he thought the room was hot, or that business was slack, she thought the same.” (107) It seems as though in this relationship Olenka plunges deeper into a well of plagiaristic thoughts absent of autonomy. Once more, her husband passes away and Olenka is left alone, but before long she meets a married man, Smirnin, a veterinary surgeon. Estranged from his wife, the surgeon finds comfort in Olenka, and being a vampire of originality, she welcomes him in. “She repeated the veterinary surgeon’s words, and was of the same opinion as he about everything.” (109) Smirinn grows tired of her and Olenka is left alone without any opinions to absorb. “When she had Kukin, or Pustovlov, or the veterinary surgeon, Olenka could explain everything, and give her opinion about anything you like, but now there was the same emptiness in her brain and in her heart as there was in her yard outside.” (110) Olenka navigates thru life piggybacking off the acumen of the men that flow through. The narrator dives into Olenka’s thoughts to expose her and sums up her lack of self-intellect into one sentence, “She was always fond of someone, and could not exist without loving.” (105) This statement suggests that Olenka’s pure existence is determined by her ability to love another man.
The narrator fills the story with opinions about Olenka. First, he harshly scolds her, like a father scolds a daughter returning home late.
“And what was worst of all, she had no opinions of any sort. She saw the objects about her...