The Darling

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: May-27-2003
  • Last revised: Aug-16-2006


Olga is a lovely, plump, and friendly girl; the kind of girl whom everyone wants to squeeze and cry delightedly, "You darling!" She marries Kukin, the manager of the amusement park, and lives quite happily, selling tickets to his shows and parroting Kukin’s opinions about the theater.

But Kukin dies while in Moscow on a business trip. Olga goes into deep mourning, but within a few months she marries Pustovalov, the timber merchant. Now Olga adopts Pustovalov’s opinions--all business, no theater. When Pustovalov dies, Olga begins an affair with Smirnin, an army veterinary surgeon who is separated from his wife. While she lives with Smirnin, Olga is full of talk about animals and their diseases.

Finally, Smirnin is transferred elsewhere; Olga is left with nothing to talk about--the darling has no opinions of her own. Many years later, Smirnin returns to the town with his wife and son. Olga becomes attached to the young boy and her eyes light up again. She has something to talk about!


Chekhov intended this story as a negative commentary on the sort of woman who has no intellectual life of her own, but simply serves as a mirror, reflecting the beliefs and opinions of her husband. Chekhov believed that women should be more than "darlings."

Ironically, Tolstoy--an anti-feminist who believed that women could only find happiness by reflecting their husbands’ light--loved "The Darling" and reprinted it after Chekhov’s death. His critique of "The Darling" appears with the story in the Alternate Source listed below. It is ironic that Chekhov’s tale of a woman without a self (she simply reflects the selves of her men) became for Tolstoy a paean to the true "selfless self" of a woman.


First published: 1899. Translated by David Magarshack; another translation by Constance Garnett appears in the Ecco Press Complete Tales of Chekhov (see Alternate Source).

Primary Source

Lady With Lapdog and Other Stories



Place Published