Use of Irony to Portray Morality in Lord Byron's Don Juan Essay

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Use of Irony to Portray Morality in Lord Byron's Don Juan

In Don Juan, George Gordon, Lord Byron, diverges from his name-sake characterization with an un-Byronic hero, Don Juan. The poem has been viewed as nihilistic and immoral. Actually there is plenty present in the first canto to show morality and hope for humanity. The poem should be viewed as the author intended: "a satire on abuses of the present state of Society, an not an eulogy on vice..." (Bostetter 9). Don Juan is a satire and therefore the morals present are shown in an ironic way. If fact, he wrote in such an obvious ironic fashion that it is hard to imagine the message was lost on many. His ironic theme is based on what people think and what they actually do. In effect
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Byron pokes fun at the hypocritical nature of people. An overabundant curiosity in other's affairs is certainly looked down upon yet it is rampant among people. Thus within in one sentence Byron points this idea out; people say one thing yet do another. This problem is central to what Byron sees as wrong with society, the basic hypocritical nature of people. There is truth to his thinking and by directing the reader to notice this, he can be said to be wanting to change that. Change usually does not occur until the fault is presented outright. "Indeed, one form taken by the philosophic irony underlying the first canto suggests that cant and hypocrisy may endanger the very continuity of civilized tradition" (Bostetter 22).

The narrator, using his particular talent in prying in people's affairs feels fit to speak of Juan's upbringing. "Instead of quarreling, had they been but both in,/ Their senses, they'd have sent young master forth/ To school, or had him soundly whipp'd at home,/ To teach him manners for the time to come" (Byron 197-200). This presents a sort of paradox--the reader may find it immoral for the narrator to judge Juan's parents and yet without this view Juan's later episodes would have less meaning behind them; for we would not know the reasons behind his behavior. Perhaps we would find the narrator's opinion of Juan's parents biased. Therefore we are told more of their immoral behavior. They lived "an unhappy sort of life,/ Wishing each other,
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