"What's the use of these theatres?": What does this statement of hers demonstrate to the reader about Olenka's character?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In her essay, "‘The Darling’: Femininity Scorned and Desired,’’ author Svetlana Evdokimova contends that Olenka mirrors the archetypal image of Echo as she repeats the thoughts of her husbands in her self-negating nature. However, this being completely devoted to the one she loves only lasts as long as that loved one lives. Furthermore, Evdokimova states that this devotion is a result of Olenka's dimunitive world in which she exists, a world that is only composed of her family home and those who dwell there with her.  For, all the people that Olenka loves come to her and reside in her house. Once they depart, then, their words and thoughts depart along with them since they leave Olga's world. 

Thus, while she lives first with the open-air theatre owner and he argues that the public is ignorant and boorish and does not understand anything of masques and operettas, Olenka echoes his thoughts as 

... she used to say to her acquaintances that the theatre was 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.

However, once Kukin dies and she marries the timber merchant, Pustovalov, Olenka echoes this new husband's words instead, speaking lovingly of the wood: 

...and there was something intimate and touching to her in the very sound of words such as "baulk," "post," "beam," "pole," "scantling," "batten," "lath," "plank," etc.

This annihilation of the memory of the former beloved is exemplified by Olenka's rejection of an opinion that she has possessed at an earlier time: "What's the use of these theatres?" she asks when others comment that she and Pustovalov never go out, for "her husband's ideas were hers" now and he finds the theatre to be "nonsense."

Clearly, Olga Semyonovna exists only as a reflection of the man to whom she is married, abnegating her own nature in her complete  intellectual and emotional dependence upon this husband. Interestingly, Evodokimova notes that the dimunitive forms of names are used in this narrative, indicating that Olga's world is extremely small. And, even her last name connects Olga to relatives as it means "nephew."  Indeed, Olga Semyonovna identifies herself with whomever she is related in complete devotion, rejecting whatever is past.


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