Washington Irving Essay, Research Paper
Washington Irving, a writer of supernatural feats and one of America?s first great writers of satire, wrote during the end of the Revolutionary and Early National period through the end of the Romantic period.
Washington Irving was born into a family of eleven children on April 3 1783 in the Dutch part of New York City. His father was named William Irving, the originally family name was Irvine, and his mother was Sarah Sanders, from a family of English rectors. After his parents were married, his father immigrated to America alone, fought in the American Revolution, and named his last-born child after his commander-in-chief (American 405). He was the favorite among the family while growing up because of his cheerful, kind, and sweet-natured personality even though he was always overcoming some kind of misfortune (Compton?s).
His parents pushed his education but he cared little for it (Webster?s). He attended a half dozen private schools, which did not meet his parents? expectations. He was an excellent reader from spending time in his father?s library. For health reasons he did not attend college at Columbia, but in 1798 he started studying law at a local firm. Irving soon left this to write for his brother?s paper and in 1804 his brothers? sent him abroad when he received tuberculosis (American).
In 1807 Irving?s literary career began when he, his brother and James Kirke Paulding published ?Salmagundi,? a series of papers. Then he wrote A History of New York by ?Diedrich Knickerbocker? that was at first a guidebook but then a comic history of Dutch New York. In 1815 he moved to England to run his brothers? mercantile firm, but the failure of the business and meetings with Sir Walter Scott convinced him to write for a living. Through 1819 and 1820 The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was published in London. This was his first taste of fame. Throughout his travels he accumulated many travel notes to publish the sequel, Bracebridge Hall. Tales of a Traveller in 1824 was produced after a visit to Germany (Webster?s). Until 1932 when Irving returned to America, he wrote The Life and Voyages of Columbus in 1828 when he went to Madrid. This happens to be his best biographical and historical productions. From 1829 to 1832 he represented the United States Legation in London as the secretary. In 1832 he went on an expedition to the Osage and Pawnee Indian tribes. From this trip grew Astoria and many other western works (American).
When returning from this trip, he bought an estate near Tarrytown called ?Sunnyside.? He lived with two of his brothers and several nieces (American). But in 1842 he was appointed to serve as U.S. minister to Spain for four years, upon finishing this he permanently resided to ?Sunnyside? (Webster?s). He enthusiastically began his finally works of Mahomet and Life of Washington that ended in exhaustion. This is believed to be the cause of his heart attack at the age of seventy-six on November 28, 1859 (American).
Washington Irving is believed to be the ?Father of American Literature? since he was the first of all the giants in the nineteenth century who all eventually overtopped him (American). Irving was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1900 because of some innovativeness, occasional brilliance, and considerable historical significance. The unevenness of his work did not set him back any (Webster?s).
Washington Irving is a writer described as a genius who was able ?to bear his faults? (Dana 239). His skepticism about his writing bought him fear of ?public disapproval? and he was not sure that he had an ability to write with ?creative energy? (Rubin-Dorsky 222). Irving is a man who is easily seen through by his humor and sentiment; his nature was ?gay with a dash of melancholy? and his inner thoughts and literary methods were simple (Warner 41). Throughout all of his works he sauntered through his writing always making sketches and discussing his characters in a cordial manner (Pattee 243). Irving shows his faults through his use of secondary sources and that his emotional experiences aided him in creating fiction (Hoffman, A Century of Commentary 354). Many of his works revolved around ?authentic settings? with local characters and ?fabrications from his own imagination? (Rodes 247). In the work of ?John Bull? and other works he ?assiduously balanced? the character?s faults with an appealing trait (Leary 253).
Throughout all of Irving?s major works he used the narrative devices of personas. In his earliest works he wrote as Jonathon Oldstyle who wrote with a wild and reckless attitude (Evans 983). In his second period he was Diedrich Knickerbocker who was calmer and a ?stylish and confident amateur.? His third and final persona was the most creative and mature in his expression of literature. Geoffrey Crayon began his greatest writing in The Sketch Book and continued through his later works of Bracebridge Hall and so on. Crayon expresses Irving in many ways while letting him ?re-experience the emotional traumas and frustrated hopes of his recent past,? therefore; the emphasis is always on Crayon (Rubin-Dorsky 232). Crayon was ?buffer? between Irving and the world which ?solved an emotional need? and led to a new genre of American literature (218). In the stories he tells Crayon is the person who is always finding the juicy gossip of a town, but he never gets involved with the oncoming conflicts. This process reinstates Irving?s sense of isolation (233). Geoffrey Crayon?s role ?cannot be overstated? because he was his ticket to professional authorship since he felt that he had ?no legitimacy as a writer? (233).
While reading Irving?s works eventually you will notice that each story is parallel to either the one before it or a few stories before that one. ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? and ?The Spectre Bridegroom? is a ?celebration of the bounty of the United States? while contrasting to ?John Bull? and ?The Pride of the Village? (Bowden 72). In both stories two men fall in love with the daughter of a wealthy man and so they will win the girl Starkenfaust and Brom Bones both follow a superstitious tale and become spectres. Every characteristic about each of them is exactly the same even down to the color of horse they ride, which happens to be black (73). Each of these stories have a great effect because the ?legendary is so firmly interwoven with solid realism? (Snell 246). In ?The Story of a Young Robber? and ?Dolph Heyliger? the exterior of the stories are the same, both taking place in the Highlands, ?duplicating its events and imagery? (103). The similarities are the close encounters with the vipers, the protagonist threatening the life of the innocent, the retaliation, and being deceived and the missing of the aim.
Irving characterizes each character to represent something in the growing world. His basic pattern is the practical receives the win and the impractical faces defeat (Martin 339). In ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Brom Bones is the first depiction of the frontiersman the expresses American culture (Magill 1249). But in the characters of Brom Bones and Ichabod the popular imagination already half created these figures (Hoffman, Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism 384). He has every characteristic that makes him so great. He is big and strong, self-confident, tough, gifted, relaxed, and knows the wilderness and settlements well. He contains a ?great knowledge and skill in horsemanship? and is always wearing his fur cap with its ?flaunting fox?s tail? (Bowden 73). He also tries to have a good sense of humor. As you know Brom Bones won the heart of Katrina which is a victory for ?common sense and hard-headed practicality over imaginative indulgence.? Brom Bones won the girl because his was ?jealousy and in love? and Ichabod only knew ?fear and ambition? (Hoffman, A Century of Commentary 353). Now Ichabod was seen as a ?typical Yankee? who tried to ward off evil by singing psalms, and read Cotton Mather (Bowden 73). He is portrayed as a comic figure that is also emphasized in a childlike quality. Ichabod is a petite little man that is now to eat and digest anything, meaning that he is ?always and increasingly gullible? (Martin 337). Dolph Heyliger is the successor to Rip, Ichabod, and Brom Bones, since he contains the better qualities of energy, courage, imagination, and the most important, being able to make spectres work for him (Current-Garcia, Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism 390). Dolph is the hero because it is the rags-to-riches story of a good looking American boy who has enough charm to win the bride in the end (Current-Garcia, Short Story Criticism 259). In ?John Bull? age is emphasized to show John Bull (Bowden 70). The sketch of the caricature of him is shown through the ?aged characters, aged servants, aged owls, aged rats, and the ancient mansion.? His satiric description is of the English government at that time and maybe the Prince Regent.
Throughout The SketchBook various themes occur tying the stories together. Some of the themes are imprisonment, shipwreck, sterility, financial loss, and the function of the storyteller. The different stories each show a ?deliberate shift? in tone and mood (Evans 984-85). Also seen throughout his works are death, sickness, and squalor, which seem to ?draw the sting from life?s terrors? through the living caring for the dead, the hale for the sick, and the rich for the poor (Ferguson 392). The most recurring theme is regional satire with its gothic effect (Bowden 73). ?John Bull,? ?The Pride of the Village,? and ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,? the last three works in The Sketch Book, all restate the major themes while using English condition and contrasting it, by juxtaposition, with the United States (70).
The remaining section of my paper concludes of my own critical analysis of Washington Irving?s works. In a few of Irving?s metaphors, a feeling of unity is expressed. In ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,? Ichabod Crane is ?found favour in the eyes of the mothers, by petting the children, particularly the youngest, and like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, [he] would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together? (Irving, The Sketch Book 355). Ichabod is the lion and the children are the lambs. In the Bible lion and lambs together mean peace, therefore, Ichabod is at peace with the families. In ?The Widow and Her Son? the missing son, George?s, ?parents received tidings of his seizure, but beyond that they could learn nothing. It was the loss of their main prop? (107). George is their life-support who taught them, took care of them, and gave them the will to live. Without their only son they had no reason to live and this shows how much they needed him and he needed them.
In ?Rip Van Winkle? and ?The Spectre Bridegroom,? Irving personifies the sun shining about the mountains, but in ?Dolph Heyliger? he personifies the haunted house. When Geoffrey Crayon describes Rip Van Winkle?s town, he says that ?when the weather is fair and settled, they [mountains] are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory? (29). This personifies the rays and the air of the mountain. Everything seems majestic, peaceful, and beautiful. In ?The Spectre Bridegroom? a moment on Starkenfaust and Von Atlenburg?s journey says ?the sun, that had poured his downward rays upon the rich forests of the Odenwald, now just gleamed along the summits of the mountains? (159). This also shows how beautiful their surroundings are and again the rays are personified to show that God controls everything. This sentence is foreshadowing their misfortune of the death of Von Altenburg, which is destined to happen. The little gleam along the mountains is the setting sun and the darkness is slowly setting in. In ?Dolph Heyliger? the personification of the haunted house brings a scary effect to the reader. When Dolph first comes to the house the staircase ?groaned and creaked as they trod, every step making its particular note? and the sounds coming from the chimney were like ?voices and struggling? (Irving, Washington Irving 319). The personification of the steps let you feel the chill going up your back like you are actually there. Even though the voices in the chimney are swallows, the effect is that they are actually a ghost or spectre.
Irving?s syntax reflects Geoffrey Crayon?s detailed stream of consciousness. Throughout ?John Bull? every aspect of his life is described. John Bull ?excels in humor more than wit; is jolly rather than gay; melancholy rather than morose; can easily be moved to a sudden tear, or surprised into a broad laugh; but he loathes sentiment, and has no turn for light pleasantry? (Irving, The Sketch Book 318). The syntax shows how John Bull can be changed. John is shown to be human since his moods are changed. In ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? the parallel structure is shown through the description of the birds fluttering around one of the farmhouses where Ichabod stays (359). The syntax and diction show how busily the pigeons are at all times. It shows the beauty of his surroundings and that at one time Ichabod was in a peaceful state of mind.
In Irving?s novels, Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller, he uses the technical device of allusion. In ?The Adventures of the Black Fisherman,? Geoffrey Crayon tells the reader about Wolfert?s injury and ?the dominie and the doctor? whose ?name was Dr. Knipperhausen? (Irving, Washington Irving 704). This alludes to the doctor in ?Dolph Heyliger? from the previous book, Bracebridge Hall. In ?Dolph Heyliger? the townspeople say that during his stay at the haunted house ?he had a long talk with a spectre without a head? (323). This quote is alluding to ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.? Irving alludes to previous stories to most of his works to show that the stories are in a chronological order and all of the stories are connected together in some way.
The use of motifs represents the conflicts in the stories. In ?The Story of a Young Robber? the motif of white shows the victims of the story. When the young robber saw his love he saw ?the gleaming of a white dress? and ?it was [being] rare for any female of the place to dress in white? (629). The motif shows that the band of robbers will soon victimize the girl. Towards the end of the story the young robber ?perceived a female on horseback, dressed in white? (634). She became a victim also. The white clothing signifies their innocence, purity, and their angelic airs. In ?The Adventures of the Black Fisherman? the motif of red is used to represent the spectre. While looking for the buried treasure they came across ?the haunted house of father red cap? (701). The spectre is recognized by his red cap that always, until now, scares the treasure hunters off. A red cap is also seen in ?Rip Van Winkle,? but it turns out to be the American flag and Rip doesn?t understand it (Irving, The Sketch Book 40). Being cut off from the world left him without knowledge of the growing world.
Many of Washington Irving?s works, use the supernatural motif of a spectre to be either a protagonist or an antagonist that causes the conflicts in the stories. In ?The Spectre Bridegroom,? Starkenfaust tells the Baron, ?NO! no! my engagement is with no bride-the worms! the worms expect me! I am a dead man-?? (166). This shows that the spectre, Starkenfaust, while living can also appear to be dead and the Landshort family proves this also. The supernatural and gothic effects are used to show that the protagonist, the spectre, will always get what he wants. In ?The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,? ?most authentic historians of these parts? are busy with ?collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre? which is ?the body of the trooper, [having been] buried in the churchyard.? He is known to ?[pass] along the Hollow, like a midnight blast ? in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak? (351). The effect of the Headless Horseman is apparent because this shows how the town thrives off the stories of him. Without the antagonistic part of the Horseman, the story would be incomplete since most of the actions and frights are based around him. Many of Irving?s other works also use the tales of the ?spectres? to express the theme appearance versus reality and that greed can make a person go to extremes to get what they want.
I believe Irving used the spectre parts to show what his life seemed like. He was always having misfortune during many stages of his life. I think the death of his seventeen-year-old fianc?e and many family members motivated him to write by using the motif.