In “The Darling,” how does Olenka feel without Kukin while he is away on business?

Quick answer:

In “The Darling,” while Kukin is away on business, Olenka feels very lonely. She cannot sleep and spends all night at her window staring at the stars.

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Kukin and his wife, Olenka, have a very happy marriage. They get on very well together and work effectively as a team in the running of Ivan's theater business. They even share a similar outlook on life—as Olenka has no opinions of her own and echoes those of her husband—despising the general public for their invincible ignorance and indifference to art.

Having said that, there's something decidedly unhealthy about Olenka's utter devotion to Ivan. When he goes away on business to Moscow not long before his death, she sits at home pining for him as if she were a puppy waiting for its master. Without her husband, Olenka is utterly bereft. She cannot get a wink of sleep and spends each night sitting by the window, gazing at the stars, waiting for her beloved Ivan to come home.

She compares herself to the hens in the henhouse, who are awake all night and feeling uneasy because the cockerel isn't there with them. This comparison only serves to underline just how emotionally dependent Olenka is on her husband.

Even so, not long after Olenka receives the terrible news that Ivan has passed away, she's able to move on with her life and give the same level of devotion to another man, a timber-yard merchant called Vasily Pustovalov.

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