What is the main conflict of "The Darling" by Anton Chekhov: Man vs. Self, Man vs. Man, or Man vs. Society?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Man vs. Self is the main conflict of "The Darling" by Anton Chekhov.

Throughout Chekhov's parodic narrative of the character of Olga Semyonova who "was always fond of some one and could not exist without loving," Olga's struggle for identity is present because she must be joined with someone in order to acquire a personality. Thus, she is in conflict with herself because alone she has no identity. "She was constantly in love with someone and could not live otherwise." 

Each time that Olga marries, she assumes the personality of her current husband. When she is married to the manager of the local theatre, Olga acquires his persona: "Whatever Snookin said about the theatre and the actors, she repeated." But after he dies, she marries Andreich Pustovalov, who is the manager of the merchant Babakayev's timber yard. Soon, Olga feels that 

...she had been dealing in timber for ages and ages, and it was the most vitally important thing in her life, and words Joist, batten, offcut purlin, round beam short beam, frame and slab, were like old friends.

Ironically, now when people ask her about the theatre, Olenka says that she and Vasya have no time for theatres: "We're working folk, we can't be bothered with trifles." For six years Vasya and Olenka are married; however, he, too, dies after going to the lumber yard one winter day without a hat. He catches something and dies four months later. Once again, Olenka is alone; however, her friend the vet still visits her, and it is not long before she repeats the vet's opinions and advice on everything.

It was clear that she could not survive even for a year without and attachment and had found her new happiness in the fleigel next door.

Finally, the vet, who is also a soldier is sent to a distant part of the country and their separation is permanent. Olenka is miserable. But, after some time, the vet, in civilian clothes, returns and tells her he has reconciled with his wife and wishes to settle down. While he is looking for a home, he asks Olenka to care for his boy. She now devotes herself to his son, Sasha.