Critique of The Darling

Critique of “The Darling”For centuries, women have turned and have entrusted in men for advice to fulfill their lives with romance. Some women, even though they had difficulty establishing a satisfactory bond with their spouse, still had a tendency to have a dependency on the male spouse for identity. For a woman to become a “wife” was a defining role in women’s lives back then, especially within the eastern European cultures. Sadly, marriage is not always shown to be flowery and romantic as expected. Although Anton Chekov portrays his protagonist character Olga as kind hearted and attractive and favored, she often longs for “love” from the male gender, and serves as the embodiment of female disempowerment.
From Olga’s perspective as the story is told, “she cannot exist without being love” (Literature and its Writers, 109) and her life only takes on a meaning through a relationship to the men she attaches herself to. In this story “The Darling,” Olga explores and molds herself into many personalities and interests of the men in her life. For instance, After her father’s death, Olga is left with only material wealth, and again there is an absence of “love,” that Olga wants. So, Olga first marries a theater owner-Kukin. When married to him, she thinks and speaks only of the theater and “repeating Kukin’s words to the actors and theater” (Literature and its Writers, 110) also saying “theater is the most important thing in life.” Her parroting of her husband’s words alone seems as though Olga never allows for thoughts or opinions of her own, as if she never learned how to think for herself is a principal characteristic of Olga that shows her lack of personality and significance in the plot.
Once Kukin dies, she soon marries a timber merchant named Vassily Pustovalov. During this marriage, she thinks, speaks, and even dreams only of timber and mountains of planks and boards carting somewhere far” (Literature and its Writers, 111) while taking his place in his office for him with now “timber being the most necessary and important thing in life.” Moreover, in an effort to appease her husband, her beliefs and ideas change with, and as often as, her husband’s about every simple aspect in their lives, “if he thought the room was too or that business was slack, she thought the same.” (112). Then, after Pustovalov dies too due to an illness, Olga weeps and recites “I’ve got nobody, now you’ve left me, my darling” (113) which signifies her yearning need for male comfort again. The plot thickens from there, as Chekov further allows readers to examine the role of a woman in those days as serving no greater role in society other than that of mother, whose only virtue is to have the capacity to just “love.”
Furthermore, after isolating herself from the outdoors except only attending church, Olga considers “seeing” a veterinary surgeon, Vladimir Plantonitch, who is separated from his wife and son. Though she does not marry him but only dates, only because “she could not live without some attachment for another year” she suddenly develops a peculiar concern of “food epidemics” and feels compelled to speak only of veterinary concerns such as “cow diseases” and how “animals ought to be as well cared for as the health of human beings.” When he, too, leaves her, Olga’s life becomes empty, as do her thoughts. Without a man around to form her identity, Olga grows old and loses the charm that once upon a time had earned her the alias amongst others that adored her as a “darling,” since she was full of bitterness” (114). This aching nostalgic cycle that caused her to be resentful and want no one (including her own feline that she rejects by saying “get away! I don’t want you”) was so, as time passed in the winter and spring, until the veterinary surgeon reenters her life, only to abandon his young son, Sasha, to her care. At last, when the child comes into her household, Olga finds renewed vigor–Sasha. Olga’s life once again takes on meaning, as she absorbs herself with the care of Sasha. Olga’s joy is once more rekindled and she feels delighted to provide for young Sasha as if he were her own son, and joyously “pops a caramel into his hand” on each trip to school (116). She empowers him “to do his best and obey all of the teachers” as a loving mother and since her character as an ideal of selfless maternal love which also surfaces. However, Sasha who overwhelmingly feels smothered by her demonstrations of maternal love feels shamefully bothered by Olenka following him regardless of whether it is for security reasons or not by spouting “You’d better go home auntie. I can go the rest of the way alone.”
Because Olga is unable to make up her mind on any issue by her own judgments, Olga adopts her husband’s beliefs and thus subordinates her will to the male desire. The only possible way Olenka gains any iota of happiness is only when she is with her two husbands-the theater-owner Kukin and the timber-merchant Pustovalov. She receives happiness solely because she tailors her outlook on life to concur with her own. Her own nickname even epitomizes an ironically pathetic mindset: she is everyones favorite “darling pet, who appears both irksome and pitiful, which is thus why people debate as to whether Chekov used this representative character for ridicule or not. Overall, Olga does not evolve within the story, she only feels more at lonesome and more desperate for male affection since she cannot turn to her old boyfriend Smirnin for emotional fulfillment. Her entire attention is focused upon Sasha whose opinions she parrots which embarrasses her newfound joy by walking him to school. Even though she is punctual enough to win the affection of the public, Olga will never win nor earn their respect because of her own self-imprisonment by her own naive ness and lack of any intellect.

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