"The Darling" is a short story by Anton Chekhov that was first published in the Russian literary magazine "Severny Vestnik" in 1899. The story follows the life of a woman named Olenka, who is often referred to as "the darling" due to her affectionate and loving nature.
At the beginning of the story, Olenka is described as a meek and submissive woman who is completely devoted to her husband, the schoolteacher Kukin. Despite the fact that Kukin is described as a cold and selfish man, Olenka is completely devoted to him and willing to do whatever he asks of her.
As the story progresses, Olenka's devotion to her husband becomes more and more extreme. When Kukin becomes ill, Olenka takes care of him with complete dedication, even though he is ungrateful and difficult to please. When Kukin dies, Olenka is devastated, and she immediately seeks out another man to fill the void left by her husband.
Olenka's next relationship is with a wealthy landowner named Podkolesin, who is described as a kind and generous man. Olenka is initially very happy in this relationship, and she becomes completely devoted to Podkolesin, doing everything in her power to make him happy. However, as time goes on, Olenka begins to feel stifled by the demands of her new husband, and she longs for the freedom and independence that she had before.
In the end, Olenka's desire for independence leads her to leave Podkolesin and return to her former life as a teacher. While she initially struggles with feelings of loneliness and isolation, Olenka eventually comes to realize that she is stronger and more capable than she ever thought possible.
One of the main themes of "The Darling" is the idea of independence and the importance of finding one's own path in life. Olenka's relationships with Kukin and Podkolesin both serve to illustrate the dangers of becoming too dependent on another person, as Olenka's happiness and sense of self are completely tied to the men in her life. By the end of the story, Olenka has learned to stand on her own two feet and has gained a newfound sense of self-worth and independence.
Another important theme in the story is the idea of love and relationships. Olenka's relationships with Kukin and Podkolesin are both driven by her deep need to be loved and needed by another person. However, as Olenka learns to stand on her own, she realizes that true love and happiness come from within and are not dependent on the approval or validation of others.
Overall, "The Darling" is a poignant and thought-provoking story that explores the complex and often difficult nature of love and relationships. Through the character of Olenka, Chekhov highlights the importance of finding one's own path in life and the dangers of becoming too reliant on another person for happiness and fulfillment.
Anton Chekhov's short story "The Darling" tells the tale of Olenka, a woman who is deeply devoted to the men in her life. At the beginning of the story, Olenka is described as being "the darling of the whole family" and "a perfect wife and mother." Despite her love and loyalty to her family, Olenka is often taken for granted and treated poorly by those around her.
One of the most striking features of Olenka's character is her ability to adapt to the needs and desires of the men in her life. Whenever she is with a new partner, Olenka takes on the persona of the perfect partner, molding herself to fit their needs and expectations. For example, when she is with her first husband, the engineer, Olenka becomes a dutiful and obedient wife, always ready to follow his orders and do as he says. Similarly, when she is with her second husband, the doctor, Olenka becomes a nurturing and caring spouse, constantly tending to his needs and looking after his well-being.
This constant need to please and adapt to the men in her life reflects Olenka's deep-seated feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Despite her love for her partners, Olenka seems to believe that she is not worthy of their love or affection unless she is constantly working to please them. This lack of self-worth is further highlighted by Olenka's reaction to the engineer's infidelity. Rather than standing up for herself and demanding respect and fidelity from her husband, Olenka simply accepts the situation and tries even harder to be the perfect wife.
Throughout the story, Olenka's devotion to the men in her life is consistently contrasted with the selfish and uncaring behavior of the men themselves. The engineer, for example, is depicted as being cold and distant, more concerned with his own pleasure than with Olenka's happiness. Similarly, the doctor is portrayed as being self-absorbed and uncaring, always focused on his own needs and desires. This contrast between Olenka's selfless love and the men's selfishness highlights the imbalance of power in their relationships and the ways in which Olenka's love is often taken for granted and unappreciated.
In the end, Olenka's constant need to please and adapt to the men in her life ultimately leads to her downfall. After the doctor leaves her, Olenka is left alone and penniless, forced to sell her belongings and beg for help from her family. This final act of desperation serves as a poignant reminder of the ways in which Olenka's selflessness and devotion to the men in her life have left her vulnerable and exposed.
Overall, "The Darling" is a powerful and poignant tale that serves as a commentary on the ways in which women's love and devotion can often be taken for granted and unappreciated. Through the character of Olenka, Chekhov highlights the complex and often unequal dynamics of relationships and the ways in which the needs and desires of one person can often overshadow the well-being and happiness of the other.