How does Hawthorne use irony in "Young Goodman Brown" to illustrate the hypocrisy of the Puritans?What characters act in ways that are against the Puritan ideals?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As an allegory/parable, Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" makes ironic use of the symbolic figures in the narrative as well as verbal and dramatic irony to depict the Puritan hypocrisy.  For instance, Young Goodman Brown's name itself certainly has a an ironic twist put upon its meaning as the narrator remarks that Brown possesses "a considerable resemblance to the traveller with the snakelike staff.  Later on, this resemblance is underscored by the witch Goody Cloyse, who remarks that the young man is made "in the very image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown," a remark that contradicts the traveller comment that he has been

"as well acquainted with [his] family as with ever a one among the Puitans; and that's no trifle to say."

That the fellow-traveller, "he of the serpent," is acquainted with many a Puritan is verified when Goody Cloyse crosses their path:  "'The devil!' screamed the pious old lady."  While the name Goody Cloyse is that of Goodman's cathecism instructor, it is also, ironically, the name of a real-life woman who was burned as a witch in the Salem Witchcraft Trials.  In addition, there is an ironical remark made by the narrator himself who refers to Goody as "pious." 

Another "pious" Puritan on whom Hawthorne's irony is not lost is Deacon Gookin, also a figure from Salem's history who, too, crosses the path of "he of the serpent" and Goodman Brown.  Expressing his delight in the forthcoming black mass of the devil, he tells Goody Cloyse that he would rather miss "an ordination dinner than tonight's meeting."  Then, in a case of dramatic irony, Goodman declares,

"With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!"

For, it is Goodman Brown, in his conflict with his Puritan guilt and his rebellion that brings him to the mass to test his faith, who awakens to a grim Calvinistic reality, convinced of not the goodness, but the depravity of man.  However, in the greatest of ironies of Hawthorne's narrative, Goodman believes that it is his wife, Faith, who has been lost, when in truth it is his faith in mankind that floats away as do the pink ribbons of his wife's hair.  With irony, Hawthorne expresses this contradiction,

The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man.

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