Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What symbolism does Irving use in Rip Van Winkle and Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

From generation to generation, Washington Irving has been a favorite in American Literature.  He was credited with being the first to use Gothic themes as well as describe American geography perfectly (4).  We must admit that when we read Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, we get an eerie feeling and begin to realize we are glued to our seats.  We bite our nails with each sentence we read and wonder what will happen next.  Washington Irving creates this reaction by many important literature elements, such as symbolism.  (Both stories are basely found on Dutch culture, which was true since New York was a Dutch colony (6)).

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a tale that can be associated with evil, terror, and the triumph of hero versus villain.  It also has a very superstitious theme (3).  This story is often read on Halloween since it is importantly a ghost story.  Symbolism can be seen within the two main characters of Ichabod Crain and his love Katrina.  Throughout the story Ichabod is constantly trying to find his "other half", Katrina.  He is intelligent and holds the profession of schoolteacher.  Therefore, one could say that Ichabod would resemble the opposite Headless Horsemen; he had a head, but not the body (2).  He could also be compared by his awkward appearance and high ego. This would also resemble Ichabod's missing body.  In the battle of the Headless Horsemen, both Ichabod and the horsemen struggle.  This could be because each are wanting the body part that they are missing.      

In the classic tale of Rip Van Winkle, symbolism plays a big role.  Rip Van Winkle's tale can be divided into two main parts: Pre-Revolution, and Post-Revolution Irving describes in this story the land before the war and after.  He implies that there is a huge comparison which leads Rip, surprised, to know he is in another time.   This could symbolize the American’s view on their new home.  They are seeing their land through different eyes due to the hard battle they have faced (4).     Rip's wife seems to be put into play by another symbol.  The irony is that the two are married yet Rip seems to loathe her beyond belief.  One could compare this to America's relationship with England before the revolution.  Though some colonists were bound to England because it was their homeland, they loathed the taxes and treatment that England gave them.  Some fictional symbols are how Rip describes the mountains.  He describes them as "far down, deep, wild, and lonely".   Rip in the story could be described as this as well as a drunkard who always puts another before his family (1).  Rip, upon wakening, also spots an eagle.  This symbolizes the freedom that America has gained (5).       




1 comment:

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