The Deacon's Masterpiece' by Oliver Wendell Holmes: Making Fun of the Logical Fallacies That Pervade a Puritanical Worldview

621 Words Jan 6th, 2018 3 Pages
The "one-hoss shay" is a metaphor for Christian dogma. Holmes chooses the one-hoss shay as the signifier of the metaphor in part because it is a carriage with one horse: it is limited in scope and function. As a one-hoss shay, the carriage has one and only one leader. Holmes suggests that the "logic" of such a limiting doctrine is humorously false.
Concerned about the weak links in one-hoss shay construction, the titular Deacon sets about to build one that lasts what he presumes to be forever. Here again, Holmes criticizes the rigidity of thinking that pervades Puritanism. It is completely illogical to conceive of a product that truly lasts forever; or to build something that is so perfect that it never breaks down. The sort of absolutist thinking that promotes religious fundamentalism is precisely what guides the Deacon's construction project. Moreover, the Deacon builds his one-hoss shay to ostensibly avoid it having any weak parts at all. He goes through great lengths to find the different types of wood conducive to building the different parts of the chaise. With meticulous attention to detail, it starts to seem completely logical that the Deacon will actually succeed.
By creating something that is built with a false premise, the entire product breaks apart. It is rendered unusable instead of being repairable as a typical one-hoss shay would…

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