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Olga Semyonovna, "Olenka"
Olenka, the daughter of the retired collegiate assessor is the central character of the story and the 'darling' referred to in the title. She is pretty girl, with kind heart and nice smile, however, she has no integrity of her own. Olenka needs another person in her life to give her being a sense, to tell her what to think and what to make of life. Subsequently to her father's death she marries a theatre manager. After the marriage she starts to help him in the theatre and adopts all of his opinions. When he dies, Olenka gets married second time, to a lumber-yard manager. She spends most of the time with him in the lumber-yard and eventually thinks only of lumber. When her second husband dies a third man enters her life. Olenka engages in a relationship with a veterinary surgeon. Soon veterinary concerns start to dominate her life. Olenka cannot marry this man, because he has a wife he has left behind. Ultimately he leaves Olenka too, with his regiment being transferred to an unknown place far away. With no men in her life Olenka's existence looses its meaning. She does not know what to say or think, she ages, loses her beauty, and feels completely empty. Only after the veterinary surgeon returns and leaves her his son to take care of, Olenka finds a meaning in her life one more time.
Ivan Petrovich Kukin, "Vanichka"
Kukin is describe as short, gaunt man with despair inscribed on his face. He was manager of an open-air theatre, Tivoli, and Olenka's first husband. He constantly complains and Olenka listens t him. Soon she start to share his opinions of weather and the unappreciative public. One day he has to leave for a short while to Moscow. He ends up being detained and eventually Olenka receives a telegram informing her of Kukin's death.
Vasily Andreyich Pustovalov, "Vasichka"
Vasily is a manager of a lumber-yard and Olenka's second husband. He and Olenka take care of the lumber-yard for several happy years until Vasily takes sick and dies.
Vladimir Platonych Smirnov
Smirnov is a veterinary surgeon living in Olenka's lodge. After the death of her second husband he and Olenka become romantically involved, however, they cannot marry, since Smirnov has a wife and son he has left behind. Smirnov wants to keep their relationship secret, because he is embarrassed by the things Olenka says in front of his friends, but due to Olenka's nature this becomes impossible. Eventually, he leaves her, as his regiment is transferred to a different location. After some years, Smirnov comes back, bringing his wife and son along with him. They move in with Olenka, who is happy to have them. Ultimately his wife leaves him to live with her sister. Smirnov dedicates most of his time to work, and leaves his son to Olenka to take care of.
Sasha is young boy, son of Smirnov, the veterinary surgeon. He comes to live in Olenka's house together with his reconciled parents. When his mother leaves to live with her sister, and his father spends all of his time working, Sasha is left to Olenka. Olenka makes him the centre of her life and wants to be with him all the time. Sasha finds Olenka's love smothering and it makes him angry. His frustration is expressed through nightmares, at the end of the story he exclaims from sleep: “I’ll give it to you! Get away! Shut up!
Described as 'thin, pale woman with a crabbed expression', she is the wife of the veterinary surgeon. She appears at the end of the story when she comes with Smirnov and their son to live at Olenka's house. In a short time she moves away to Kharkov to live with her sister and leaves her son and husband behind.
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