The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Literary anaysis of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
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During the 1800’s Washington Irving was critical in American Literature’s separation from Britain. He wrote the “Sketch Book” which included stories such as “Rip Van Winkle” and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. It was the first book by an American writer to become popular outside of the United States and helped establish American writing as a respectable form of literature. In “The legend of Sleepy Hollow” Irving’s clever use of imagery and descriptive writing disguise his intent, leaving the reader to decipher the meaning of his words. His use of imagery and descriptive writing when he speaks of the town of Sleepy Hollow itself and when he speaks of food are seen repeatedly throughout “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.
The story begins with the poem “Castle of Indolence” Irving emphasizes a figurative meaning in this line of the poem “gay castles in the clouds”. The literal image is of a stone building with a moat and drawbridge, however castles also conjure up images of romance and fantasy which in turn describes how he sees the town of Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod describes Sleepy Hollow as a place to escape the “real world”. When he says “If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions and dream quietly away from the remnant of troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley”.
Sleepy Hollow is seen as a place of fantasy like proportions, peaceful and serene away from the stresses of “normal” life. “A drowsy dreamy influence seems to pervade over the very atmosphere” gives the reader an even larger notion of just how slow paced and laid back the town is. There is a kind of magic that resides in Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod describes it as “enchanted”. Irving also uses gentle water imagery in his description of the town. His use of calming water scenes to describe the citizens of the town seems to indicate a certain affection for them. It reiterates the harmonious thoughts he has of the town and its people.
Food imagery is also prevalent through “The legend of Sleepy Hollow”. These images add detail to the story but food also seems to symbolize other things. Food is used as a symbol for the immense appetite of Ichabod who seems to see it in almost anything. The line ” Dutch housewives are known for their spinning of ghost tales as much as they are known for their baked goods” communicates the message that the women of Sleepy Hollow have a large appetite for both food and ghost stories. Katrina Van Tassel is described as ” a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her fathers peaches”. The lovely and lush images further characterize Katrina as something desirable. She is also described as “so tempting a morsel”. Referring to more than just her beauty, this image also shows us that Ichabod not only wants Katrina, but the food dowry he will receive if he marries her.
Washington Irving’s use of descriptive writing and imagery in relation to the town of Sleepy Hollow and food are seen frequently throughout “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Irving is known for his skilled use of imagery in his tales, and the reader gets to analyze the meaning behind his words. He was the first American author to produce a popular book in the United States with his collection of stories in “The Sketch Book”. Because of this, Washington Irving was crucial to the literary separation of the United States from Britain.