#194 The Darling

Find today’s 4,956 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/194.html

Travis review:

Olenka is a woman of empathetic obsession. She is a blank slate with neither desire or even logical thoughts until she meets a man (two husbands, one companion, and a child) from whom she can live vicariously. Chekhov writes Olenka almost a caricature. At first, the empathetic obsession is more hidden with Olenka’s first husband, who’s sour demeanor contrasts with her positive outlook as she voiced strong opinions about the theater being “…the chief and most important thing in life and that it was only through the drama that one could derive true enjoyment and become cultivated and humane.” The pattern sets when she marries Pustovalov and her dreams and conversations are all about the lumber business. It is only after the veterinary surgeon leaves, that the tone of the story changes from comical to a sad tale of neurosis as the vacancy of Olenka’s life and mind alters her into a pathetic, aged woman with “the same emptiness in her brain and in her heart as there was in her yard outside.” It is this shift from comical obsession to sad, loneliness that makes the story memorable instead of a forgettable tale about woman who couldn’t think without men. Chekhov pulls this off because Olenka has so much enthusiastic gusto for the men in her life and their occupations, that to see her so utterly vacant and feeble is heartbreaking. When the veterinary surgeon shows up again, this time with his child, I was happy for Olenka more than I have been for many other Chekhov characters. Happy that she has new obsession to live for. (Sidenote: I like the following simple line that illustrates the passing of time. “Little by little the town grew in all directions.”)

Rating: 7

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