Sunday, April 22, 2012

This Week's Book: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

More fiction, this time published a little earlier. Apparently I just can't get enough of the nineteenth century.

April 15-21: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Literature (1819 - 41 pp.) 

This is by far the shortest work I have read for Book a Week so far. Expect more of these whenever I have exams and/or papers and/or excursions all at the same time. Still loving the classics, just in bite size! For the record, although The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is widely considered a short story, it checks out at about 12,000 words. By the standards of our day, it's a typical novelette. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, if only two things, reminds us how much early nineteenth-century American literature takes after eighteenth-century British literature, and expands a relatively simple plot into a surprisingly long work. For the former, expressions like "coquette" abound, describing the female main in a way students of eighteenth-century British literature can immediately understand. There is also an element of didacticism in Irving's work, not completely unlike something Dr. Samuel Johnson would have done, if not quite as overt - and, of course, any didacticism is revealed as a joke. Fitting for a post-Revolution American story... 

As for the latter, my one qualm with the story is its attention to detail. Despite hearing Ichabod Crane's life story and then some, I do not feel particularly attached to his character. Likewise, although the other characters are described well and the plot is readily understandable, I feel absolutely nothing for any of them. I can certainly understand why this was not a novel, as I cannot imagine what is, in essence, a single scene with some background, extending any further. 

Interesting read and a nice little peek into the literary side of American history. Having read Rip Van Winkle, I had to read this one too. I enjoyed Rip Van Winkle more, but The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a fun, twisted ending... once you get past a virtual almanac on Tarrytown. 

Ease of Reading: 7 
Educational Content: 3

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