The indirect characterization in The Betrothed and The Darling criticizing a woman’s role in 19th century Russian society Society can influence every aspect of ones life. Through culture, media, and socialization the choice to allow this influence can create ones identity. The short stories The Betrothed and The Darling; written by Anton Chekhov, display similar generalizations of a woman’s role in Russian society. The Betrothed is a short story about a young woman who chooses to pursue education independently over an arranged, loveless marriage. The Darling presents a traditional Russian woman who continues to fall in love.
Anton Chekhov reveals criticism of society through the contrasting roles of the main characters. The indirect characterization of the leading women in The Betrothed and The Darling convey their similar themes of the impact 19th century Russian Culture has on a woman’s role in society. The acceptable woman in Russian society is illustrated through the character Olenka in The Darling. Olenka was a woman of tradition; she followed the Russian norm of allowing the man to be the leader. Olenka was “always fond of someone and could not exist without living”(212).
Olenka is characterized as a woman who falls in love easily, throwing herself into a life of love. Olenka had many love affairs and presented herself as a “gentle, soft-hearted, compassionate girl”(213). The vulnerability of Olenka affected the choices she made in life. Through copious love affairs, Olenka still compromised her independence for love. Despite life’s disappointments, Olenka masked her flaws with a gentle character. Her dreams were not reality causing her to “cry out in her sleep” (215) emphasizing her true unhappiness. Olenka had become nothing more than a puppet, mocking the opinions and beliefs of each man she loved.
She recognized that her ideas were not her own. She was a slave to love and was never satisfied. By creating the image of puppet to the men in her life, Olenka was classified as a common Russian woman. Olenka portrays the Russian societies silencing and oppression of women. The development of her character reveals the lack of confidence and independence instilled in Olenka from a young age, in which she let pre-determine her future. Olenka does not go beyond the boundaries of Russian societies traditional influence. Because of her choice to stay within these boundaries she is accepted.
For Olenka, her acceptance in society is more important than forming an identity of her own. Olenka’s character is used to display the limitations of women’s role in Russian society and ridicules a dependent identity. In Chekhov’s short story, The Betrothed, the traditional role of a Russian woman is challenged through the tempting idea of independence. The main character Nadya was raised in a traditional Russian family. Ever since Nadya was “sixteen years old she had been dreaming ardently of marriage” (248). At a young age, Nadya’s only knowledge of a future was marriage.
It is common for a young Russian woman to respond narrow mindedly to their future and displays Nadya’s character as naive. However, her view soon changes when a man named Shasha brings up the idea of independence. Nadya identifies how while “others will work for her, she is devouring the life of others”(253). Nadya’s character soon develops a mindset of self-sufficiency, disputing the option of a loveless marriage. After talking with Sasha, she declares that she “shall go away tomorrow” (254). Nadya makes the choice to go her own way despite what the Russian tradition says was acceptable.
She leaves with Sasha to live a life of independence. Nadya becomes an empowered woman who chooses education over a loveless marriage. In doing this she does not fulfill a Russian woman’s role but instead reveals her enablement to choose her own path. Throughout these short stories, Anton Chekhov conveys the accepted role of women in Russian society, while exposing his criticism on society’s take on a traditional Russian woman. Both short stories explore the plight of two Russian women and their journey on creating an identity for themselves.
Olenka is characterized as thinking only the thoughts of her husband, she “saw objects and understood what she saw, but could not form any opinion about them”(216). Her character displays a woman’s internal struggle for freedom in the Russian society of the 19th century. Olenka’s image of a mirror to her husband’s thoughts and actions portray an extreme satire to a woman’s role in Russian culture and emphasize Chekhov’s criticism. The role of conforming to society is indirectly criticized as her identity becomes as any other Russian woman, lacking empowerment and independence. In the short tory The Betrothed, Nadya’s character was the complete opposite to the Russian normality. Nadya expresses how she “despises her fiance, she despises herself, she despised her whole idle, empty life”(253). A woman opposite to society is introduced and supports the emphasis of a more independent woman. Nadya achieves her goals with success and takes on an identity created by her rather than society. The traditional roles highlighted in The Darling are disputed in The Betrothed. Chekhov challenges the tradition of a woman’s role in 19th century Russian society and presents a counter role between these two short stories.
Although women of 19th century Russia were subjected to one gender role, Chekhov was able to present an opposite role enforcing woman’s independence. The contrasting short stories reveal Chekhov’s criticism to one and support of the other. Gender roles of woman in Russian society are very strict and traditional. However, by characterizing the independent role of Nadya in The Betrothed, the typical gender role is changed. Anton Chekhov develops these two stories and illustrates that despite society’s influence, it is possible to overcome the generalizations of an appropriate Russian woman and become independent.
Chekhov’s short stories directly relate to the constant struggle of women’s rights and independence that began during the 20th century. Women all over the United States began to leave the role of a housewife and discover other potential they had through education and self-employment. Nadya’s branching into independence supports and relates to women’s growing role in society today. Work Cited Chekhov, Anton Pavlovish. “‘The Betrothed’ and ‘The Darling’ . ” Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories. New York: Norton, 1979. Print.