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Chekhov's Story "The Darling"

Anton Chekhov is an author and playwright more sinned against by his advocates than by his critics. His well-known complaint to Constantin Stanislavski illustrates the conundrum: Chekhov wrote to the famed director that his first full-length play, The Seagull, was a comedy - but Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theater production made it into a tragedy. Stanislavski's world-class productions of Chekhov's full-length plays elevated the short-story miniaturist to the international level of attention, but the interpretations that did so ran counter to the playwright's intent. So, too, have the words of praise heaped upon Chekhov's short stories: he is treated with great respect, his tales dissected with microscopic care, their compact narratives evaluated for all the heavy subtext they can bear. All too often, the critical laurels showered upon Chekhov's short stories is misdirected overkill, smothering the originality of the author's sense of humanistic humor under layers of psychological sturm und drang. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the slim, beautifully told story of "The Darling."

"The Darling" is a straightforward tale of a woman who is only fulfilled when she is in love and with someone. "With" is the operative word: the heroine, Olenka, goes through two husbands (both die), lives with a married man for six years, and finally finds greatest fulfillment - "(o)f her former attachments not one had been so deep" (Chekhov 53) - as stand-in mother for someone else's child. Olenka is the title character, "The Darling," which can be alternately translated as "little spirit" or "little soul" (Poggioli 128). When with the objects of her love, she mimics their very thoughts; her spirits soar and others respond positively by smiling, grabbing her hand or hugging her, "exclaiming in a gush of delight, 'You darling!'" (Chekhov 46). When she is without someone to love and be with, however, Olenka's "little spirit" cannot keep it...

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Chekhov's Story "The Darling". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:29, May 31, 2020, from