In The Scarlet Letter, how was the celebration of Election Day ironic in comparison to the Puritan beliefs?
The narrator describes to us the ceremonies and interestingly comments that this Election Day, which celebrates the annual installation of governers, actually allows the normal Puritan joyless existence to be relaxed for a brief while, and the townspeople are given more license to have fun and participate in various diversions. Although we are told the jocularity of Elizabethan England is certainly not present, there is nonetheless evidence of merriment and pleasure:
Not the less, however, the great, honest face of the people smiled, grimly, perhaps, but widely too.
There is irony in this statement, as even with the opportunity to relax the people can only find it in themselves to break away from their normal dour outlook to smile "grimly" rather than fully. The ceremony also contains a number of different sports that normally would not be countenanced. So, the irony lies in the way that this day represents a break in the normal culture of the Puritan year.