Does the presentation of the theme seem more important in this story than the rendition of individual characters?
Anton Chekov's characterization seems paramount to the development of theme in "The Darling." For, it is by means of the development of the character of Olga Semonyonovna and his parodic humor and ambiguity in this characterization that Chekov presents his themes of the Role of Women in Russian Society, the Nature of Love, Loss, Abandonment and Death, and Maternal Love, themes that have been interpreted differently by critics and readers alike.
In his parody of the vapid character of Olga, for instance, Chekhov points to the lack of identity that women have without a man or a child. While Olga seems so gentle, soft-hearted and compassionate that people consider her such a "darling," she has no identity on her own and people find her tiresome, even perceiving her as not as pretty as she was before when she was married.
Yet, with a certain ambiguity attached to her character, interpretations of Olga also give rise varying critiques, such as that of Tolstoy, who contended that Chekhov's characterization of Olga had the opposite effect that was intended. Tolstoy wrote,
I believe that while he was writing "The Darling," the author had in his mind, though not in his heart, a vague image of a new woman; of her equality with man; of a woman mentally developed, learned, working independently for the good of society as well as, if not better than, a man; of a woman who has raised and upholds the woman question.