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Irony in “The Ambitious Guest” by N. Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of irony as a literary device was not an afterthought. Writers use irony in the same way that a chef utilizes a certain type of ingredient to add flavor or character to the prepared dish. However, Hawthorne’s case, it is a mistake to perceive the use of irony as some sort of an accoutrement, like the complicated artwork in antique leather-bound books. On the contrary, Hawthorne’s use of the said literary device is similar to a carpenter adding the door’s hinges before it becomes a fixture of the entryway.

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In Hawthorne’s short story entitled The Ambitious Guest, ironic statements were utilized like a door’s hinges, these were small but critical components that allow the main section to perform its intended purpose. It is also a mistake to remove the “irony” factor in The Ambitious Guest, because the story’s ending will lack meaning and coherence.

Being forewarned about the presence of two instances of irony did not make it an easier task to locate the specific usage of the said literary device. It was a difficult job to locate the use of irony, because the author revealed only the first half of the ironic statement. In other words, Hawthorne patiently established the backdrop, as he raised the platform, he employed at the end to reveal the irony in the story. For example, he described in detail the precarious situation of the lodging facility – the so-called Notch of the White Hills (Hawthorne, 1). This location was made more dangerous by a tall and large mountain that towers over the cottage.

The imminent danger posed by landslides prompted the family living inside to develop some sort of an emergency drill so that a simple command urges everyone to execute an adrenaline-pumping maneuver and relocate into a safer area outside the cottage. This is an example of the deliberate creation of the platform to showcase the first instance of irony. However, the full revelation came later as manifested in the impact of the landslide.

The magnitude of the said natural calamity was beyond the expected impact. A significant portion of the mountain cascaded towards the valley. As a result, a huge chunk careened into a different direction, and instead of hitting the house, it squashed the stunned victims that were standing just outside the cottage.

In the second instance, Hawthorne was more deliberate in setting up the stage for the second display of irony. It was a painstaking process, and the first stage starts with the description of a contented and happy family. The people that comprised the community located in the Valley of Seco were fond of the carefree people living in the cottage. The same thing can be said of the travelers that frequented the lodging place. Nonetheless, the children and the parents were never interested in far-away adventures, because they were the perfect representation of contentment. The second part requires the entry of a man desperate to gain fame.

His obsession to become famous was a stark contrast to the simple minded pursuits of the inhabitants of the small cottage. Thus, it was ironic, that in the aftermath of the family’s demise, they became famous while the traveler who desperately desired recognition died in obscurity. This is a perfect use of irony that not only creates tension and color within the story, but at the same time, it became instrumental in creating a satisfying ending to the tale of the ambitious guest.

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Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Ambitious Guest. 2016. Web.

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