Irony in The Cherry Orchard

Irony Examples in The Cherry Orchard:

Act I 1

"I talk French perfectly horribly. ..."   (Act I)

This line uses oxymoronic language for comedic effect. The use of “perfectly” is undermined by “horribly,” demonstrating a quick change in meaning and a comedic tone.

"It was very good for them in the old days. At any rate, they used to beat them. ..."   (Act II)

Lopakhin’s comment here is an example of verbal irony. Having come from the serving class as well, Lopakhin knows that serfdom was not all positive in the past since the landowners could beat and sell their serfs. His comment then should be read as a sarcastic remark.

"The dead master, the grandfather, used to give everybody sealing-wax when anything was wrong. I've taken sealing-wax every day for twenty years, and more; perhaps that's why I still live...."   (Act III)

Fiers claims that his old master used to use sealing-wax (the wax used to seal envelopes) as a medicinal treatment. Fiers believes that his longevity may be due to the practice of ingesting sealing-wax every day for twenty years. In fact, sealing-wax would be incredibly dangerous to swallow, especially for such a long time. This is, of course, an absurd suggestion and would have seemed just as comedic and ridiculous to audiences at the time as it does today.

"Nietzsche... a philosopher... a very great, a most celebrated man... a man of enormous brain, says in his books that you can forge bank-notes...."   (Act III)

This line is meant to be comedic. Chekov is juxtaposing the “high-brow” philosophy of Nietzsche with “low-brow” criminal activity for monetary gain. It is absurd to suggest that the main lesson gained from Neitzsche’s existential texts is bank-note forgery.