Having lived her life within the orb of the man to whom she has been married, Olga Semyonovna has never developed herself as an individual; her meaning in life is derived solely from the men with whom she dwells. But, after she loses three husbands, and a paramour in the form of a soldier, Olga is bereft until the veterinary surgeon/soldier returns with his once estranged wife and their son, who soon reside in her house while she moves to the lodge.
In time, however, the wife departs and the surgeon, too, is gone for long periods. Therefore, Olga moves Sasha to the lodge where she cares for him; soon, she has opinions again as she talks of Sasha's school and the methods of teaching him. However, when she goes over his lessons and becomes so absorbed in her new role as mother, Sasha begs her,
"Oh, do leave me alone!"
Nevertheless, Olga continues to dote upon the boy and walk him to school, dropping a sweet into his hand before saying goodbye, as he reaches the street on which the school is,
...he would feel ashamed of being followed by a tall, stout woman, he would turn round and say:
"You'd better go home, auntie. I can go the rest of the way alone."
Overwhelmed by Olga's smothering motherly love, Sasha resents her attentions in his efforts to grow and become independent while she obliviously is enthralled with loving him as her own child. Sadly, Olenka does not realize that to love a man-child is not the same as to love a man. For absorbing herself in the matters of her husbands has been what has endeared her to these men who have already found their ways in life. They are flattered by her attentions, her becoming absorbed in their opinions. On the other hand, the boy is embarrassed by the doting woman. Too oblivious to the feelings of the boy, since her former husbands fondly called her a darling for being so subservient in her love, Olga does not perceive Saha's revulsion of her ways. Too polite to express these feelings, Sasha's subconscious, instead, cries out as he sleeps,
"I'll give it you! Get away! Shut up!"
Unlike the husbands who retain some independence in their business pursuits, the boy Sasha lives a repressed life. In addition, Chekhov, who explores female dependency in this narrative, may also be portraying Sasha as the male who expects a life typical of other Russian males, thus being unwilling to become the sole object of someone's all-absorbing love. In her motherly interdependency with Sasha, too, Olga herself is selfish. For, after all, she demands that Sasha always be present for her to love.