Despite the evidence that Washington Irving uses to show his love for America in his stories, he portrays some characters in the Devil and Tom Walker and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as greedy. Irving shows concern for America by placing stories in uniquely American moments. In this essay I will prove through passages and quotes from Irving s stories that he shows his love for America in his stories and portrays some characters as greedy in the two stories.
The historical settings of these stories is made apparent by the use of elements common to the revolutionary era. In The Devil and Tom Walker when Irving is describing the setting he gives an impression that it took place in America. In describing the setting he says, “It had been the stronghold of the Indians during their war with the colonists.” Since the war took place in America this is one evidence of his love for America. Another is when Irving is describing the devil and he makes the point that he a particularly American devil. When the devil first meets Tom and the devil is telling him about himself he says, “I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of Quakers and Anabaptists; I am the great patron and prompter of slave dealers and the grandmaster of the Salem witches.” In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow there are many American traits in the description of the setting. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon ball, in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war. This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run rear it during the war; it had been the scene of marauding, and infested with refugee, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. It s obvious from all the different American traits brought out in these stories that Americans were not only one kind of people.
Another trait not necessarily flattering to American people apparent in these stories is greed. Irving makes a strong commentary about a major character flaw of the American people. The main greed of the characters in both the stories is of wealth. It is apparent in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that Ichabod Crane cares more about food than Katrina. In the long descriptive passages of Ichabod s daydreaming of the food he would get Irving writes, “In his devouring minds eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust;.” And he goes on for a full paragraph daydreaming of the wonderful food he would get. Also while Ichabod is dreaming of his life if he were to marry Katrina he thought of all the wealth he could have. As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow-lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and indian corn, and the orchards burthened with ruddy fruit which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how the might be readily, turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild lands, and shingle places in the wilderness. In The Devil and Tom Walker there is also a greed for money that Tom and his wife have. Tom had sold his soul to devil for the location of the buried treasure. Irving also writes, “All her avarice was awakened at the mention of hidden gold, and she urged husband to comply with the black mans terms and secure what would make them wealthy for life. At length she determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself.”
There is ample evidence for Irvings love for America and evidence that supports the assertion of Irving portraying some of his characters as greedy. In The Devil and Tom Walker Irving sets an American scene with a devil who speaks of slave trade and the salem witch trials. Both Tom and his wife reveal a greedy nature. Ichabod Crane cares more about food and wealth, then Katrina herself. The character descriptions as well as the settings used by Irving, bring the stories to life.