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!"
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