Olenka, the daughter of a retired collegiate assessor, is the central character of the story and the "darling" referred to in the title. She is a pretty girl, with a kind heart and a nice smile; however, she has no ideas or opinions of her own. Olenka needs another person in her life to give her a sense of identity, to tell her what to think and what to make of life. The drama of the story comes from this strange personality trait.
Ivan Petrovich Kukin, "Vanichka"
Kukin is described as a short, gaunt man with despair inscribed on his face. He is a manager of an open-air theatre, the Tivoli, and Olenka's first husband. After listening to Kukin's constant complaining, Olenka starts to take on his opinions about theatre and the public as her own. During a trip to Moscow, he is detained and, soon after, dies, which Olenka learns via misspelled telegram.
Vasily Andreyich Pustovalov
Pustolatov is a lumber merchant and Olenka's second husband. He's a deeply religious man, and leads a pious, materially -comfortable life with Olenka for six years until his untimely death from an illness contracted while out in the cold.
Vladimir Platonych Smirnin
Smirnin is a veterinary surgeon living in Olenka's lodge. After the death of her second husband, he and Olenka become close, but do not develop a romantic relationship on account of his marriage to an estranged wife and the young son they share. Smirnin disappears for a spell, leaving Olenka in despair and totally lacking in ideas or opinions. He later returns to Olenka's house with his wife and child. Despite them all boarding at Olenka's house, Smirnin is largely absent for the rest of the story.
Sasha is Smirnin's son. He comes to Olenka's house with his parents, and lives there with them until his mother leaves and Smirnin proves more or less absent. Olenka begins to care for Sasha as her own, making him the centre of her life and absorbing all of his opinions about school. Sasha, though, is somewhat suffocated by the relationship.
Described as a "thin, pale woman with a crabbed expression," Smirnin's wife is more notable as a character for her absence. She appears briefly when she, Smirnin, and Sasha come to live in Olenka's house. Shortly after, she moves away to Kharkov to live with her sister, leaving the family permanently behind.
The Darling Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Darling is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
One major theme in Chekhov's story is the nature of love. This theme is illustrated through the character of Olga Semyonovna, who lives for the idea of love and withers away without it. In the story, however, Chekov questions Olga's feelings about...