What is an example of satire in Chekhov's play The Bear? 

What is an example of satire in Chekhov's play The Bear?

 

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Satire is defined as constructive criticism delivered by mocking an element’s shortcomings in a humorous way to bring attention to the issue. The criticism is achieved through irony and sarcasm with the aim of instigating change or addressing a sensitive topic.

In the play by Chekhov, Smirnov is pressed to pay his debt, but none of his debtors wants to pay him back. His situation gets worse when Popova, one of his debtors, claims she is in no mood to discuss financial issues. Smirnov employs sarcasm to draw attention to his predicament and hopes that Popova will pay.

SMIRNOV: Thank you. [He shrugs his shoulders.] And they expect me to stand for all that. The toll-gatherer just now met me in the road and asked why I was always worrying. Why, in Heaven's name, shouldn't I worry? I need money; I feel the knife at my throat. Yesterday morning I left my house in the early dawn and called on all my debtors. If even one of them had paid his debt! I worked the skin off my fingers! The devil knows in what sort of Jew-inn I slept; in a room with a barrel of brandy! And now at last I come here, seventy versts from home, hope for a little money, and all you give me is moods! Why shouldn't I worry?

Smirnov is relentless in his quest, and Popova accuses him of not knowing how to treat a lady. Smirnov employs sharp irony and sarcasm to criticize Popova’s beliefs. His criticisms bring to attention the general gender issues that exist within the society.

SMIRNOV: [Imitating her.] Not at all funny--vulgar! I don't understand how to behave in the company of ladies. Madam, in the course of my life I have seen more women than you have sparrows… I am not speaking of present company, but of women in general; from the tiniest to the greatest, they are conceited, hypocritical, chattering, odious, deceitful from top to toe; vain, petty, cruel with a maddening logic and [he strikes his forehead] in this respect, please excuse my frankness, but one sparrow is worth ten of the aforementioned petticoat-philosophers.

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