As with all works of art, there are varied interpretations. Certainly, the motif of austerity is pronounced in Grant Woods's American Gothic. With the deprivation of color and dimension, along with the limitation of line, design, and shape, there is the portrait of a life that appears limited by its rural region and cultural practices.
However, the decorative and somewhat pretentious window that looms behind the Quaker-like figures seems incongruous and suggests, along with the title of the painting, something that may lie beneath the apparently austere and homemade images, lending an ambiguity to the painting as it is inderterminate as to what the figures are thinking. Thus, there is an irony to the painting that seems to hold the key to the truth. It is, then, this irony that seems most important--important enough to be included in the title.