The Darling (Chekhov)

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"The Darling" (Russian: Душечка, Dushechka) is a short story by Russian author Anton Chekhov, first published in the No.1, 1899, issue of Semya (Family) magazine, on January 3, in Moscow.[1] The story follows the life of a woman who is referred to by others as "darling."[2]


Anton Chekhov started writing short comic stories while attending medical school to help pay for school and his family. He finally became a full-time writer in 1892 and wrote his famous stories such as "Neighbors," "Ward Number Six," "The Black Monk," and "The Murder." Chekhov is known throughout Russia, but remained unknown internationally up until World War I, when the majority of his works were translated into English.[3]


Olenka Plemyannikova, the daughter of a retired collegiate assessor, falls in love with the theater owner, Kukin. Olenka’s father dies and she marries Kukin, the two of them live a happy married life. She soon takes over some of his roles in the box office by keeping accounts and the business end of some payments; during this time she becomes more involved in the business and acts like Kukin. Kukin travels to Moscow and dies; Olenka is given word of his death and mourns for three months. Olenka soon finds another man she becomes attached to, Vasily Pustovalov, a merchant from a timber yard; after a few days she becomes infatuated by him and they marry. Olenka disregards all responsibilities of the theater and concentrates on the opinions and thoughts of her new husband. The two of them live a comfortable life of casual talk and religious activities until Vasily becomes ill and dies from a prolonged cold. Shortly after Vasily's death another man enters Olenka’s life, Smirnin, a veterinary surgeon. Smirnin complains that he had left his wife and son because of her unfaithfulness, so he is offered the lodge to live in with Olenka until he is able to fix the situation. Olenka and Smirnin become involved with one another, but try to keep it a secret; this fails because Olenka talks to Smirnin’s friends about the cattle, which embarrasses him. Smirnin leaves to travel to Moscow and is gone for months, during this time Olenka cannot think of anything independently from her husband or predominant male figure and is unable to create an opinion. Smirnin finally returns and states that he has started working again as a veterinary because his son is now at the age of attending school and that he has reconciled with his wife; Smirnin’s family moves into the lodge that Olenka offers to them. Olenka soon becomes obsessed with the son, Sasha; she follows him to school and confesses that she loved him, “never had her soul surrendered to any feeling so spontaneously.” The final line in the short story is a quote from a sleeping Sasha, “I’ll give it to you, get away! Shut up!” [4]


  • Olenka: the daughter of a retired collegiate assessor. Very beautiful, but is also emotional, gentle, soft-hearted, compassionate, mild and tender eyes. Easily sways with the opinions around her and follows those that are closest to her. Is referred to as "darling" for her sweet personality and willingness to give.
  • Plemyanniakov: Olenka’s Father - A retired collegiate assessor – has fallen ill and dies in the beginning of the story. Olenka's first male figure.
  • Kukin: neighbor of Olenka – manages the open air theater. Becomes Olenka’s first husband and dies when he works in Moscow. Described as a small thin man, yellow face, with curls, talks in a thin tenor voice with an expression of despair, but had a deep genuine affection in Olenka
  • Vassily Andreitch Pustovalov: Olenka's neighbor is a merchant from a timber yard. He comforts her after the death of Kukin and falls in love with Olenka. Falls ill from a cold and later dies a few months later. Olenka's third male figure.
  • Smirnin: a veterinary surgeon – has separated from his wife who has his son, left her because of unfaithfulness. Easily embarrassed by Olenka. Olenka's fourth male figure
  • Sasha: Smirnin’s son from his previous marriage attends school and is very intelligent. Parents abandoned him for work and social lives so was raised by Olenka. This is the last male figure that Olenka cares for, but smothers him with maternal love as compared to her previous husbands/male figures.


One predominant theme in the story was that a woman does not have the ability to think independently. Olenka’s first male dependent was her father who died in the beginning of the story; Kuklin was the next male figure in her life. During the time she spent with him she only thought about the theater programs and any other concerns that Kuklin had; however, when he died she only waits three months before becoming involved with another man. This man, worked at the timber yard, Olenka made timber her life; throughout the story it stated that she would think, talk, and dream about timber all day. Her attitude had also changed because her husband was a very calm man that placed great value in the religious faith. Like her first husband, he dies and she connects herself with another man shortly after his death; like all her other male connections she engulfs her thoughts in her husband's profession. Eventually all the male connections she has had are gone and it says “She had no opinions of any sort. She saw the object about her and understood what she saw, but could not form any opinion about them, and did not know what to talk about.” [5] This means that without a dominant male figure she could not be independent, she had also counted on the dependency of a male’s needs and thoughts.


  1. ^ "Commentaries to Душечка". The Works by A.P. Chekhov in 18 volumes. Nauka Publishers. Vol. X. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "Anton Chekhov". The Literature Network. Jalic Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  3. ^ Simmons, Ernest J. (1962). Chekhov: A Biography. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-75805-3. 
  4. ^ Charters, Ann (2011). The Story and Its Writer: an Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's: MPS. pp. 188–197. ISBN 978-0-312-59624-8. 
  5. ^ Charters, Ann (2011). The Story and Its Writer: an Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's: MPS. pp. 188–197. ISBN 978-0-312-59624-8. 

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