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Young Goodman Brown: Irony, Madness and Symbolism

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Another good example can be found on page 28 wherein the author mentioned that Goody Cloyse covered himself up as a “ pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, ” (Hawthorne 26) but is a witch, complete with a broomstick and evil magic spells. Hawthorne’ s irony makes him suggest, tongue-in-cheek, that her muttering is “ a prayer, doubtless” (29). The supposedly holy minister and “ Good old Deacon Gookin” (Hawthorne 61) is actually only pretending to show the image of holiness. The Puritans are referring to the English Protestants during the 16th and 17th century who are expected to practice strict religious discipline (Farlex Dictionary).

In the short story, Hawthorne described the Puritan society as the “ grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames and dewy virgins” (57) in bright colors of sin. Even the hymn sung at the satanic gathering is cloaked in “ the slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more” (Hawthorne 59).

This irony makes the reader sensitively conscious of the strangeness between the author’ s representation of his characters, and the impression they create as the story progresses. The irony is further strengthened by the peaceful ending of the story in the town, with the characters again displaying their saintly behaviors. Upon analyzing the flow of the story, it is clear that Hawthorne’ s decision to use irony is very effective in terms of highlighting the hypocrisy of religious people. Hawthorne described the character of young Goodman Brown with a touch of insanity in such as way that the main character of the story defended himself against the temptations of the Devil but fell down in quick succession.

According to Hawthorne (17), “ a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs” are actually the close acquaintances of the devil. For instance, the public figures of New England, who Goodman Brown thinks are “ a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide no such wickedness” (Hawthorne 19) are revealed to be sinners.

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preview essay on Young Goodman Brown: Irony, Madness and Symbolism
  • Pages: 6 (1500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Literature
  • Level: Undergraduate
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