Latimer’s older brother Alfred is his opposite. Latimer describes him as ”a handsome, self-confident man of 6 and 20 a thorough contrast to my fragile, nervous, ineffectual self.” Alfred is their father’s favorite, as he embodies all that the father desires in a son. When Latimer is introduced to Bertha as a probable future wife to Alfred, his natural dislike of his brother turns to envious hatred. Right before he is to be married to Bertha, Alfred dies from falling off a horse, leaving Latimer free to marry Bertha.
Mrs. Archer is the new servant Bertha hires, a woman whose arrival Latimer dreads: “I had a vague dread that I should find her mixed up with the dreary drama of my life that some new sickening vision would reveal her to me as an evil genius.” Latimer describes her as “a tall, wiry, dark-eyed woman, this Mrs. Archer, with a face handsome . . . Read More
Latimer is the first-person narrator of ”The Lifted Veil,” as well as the main character. The story begins, as he informs the reader, exactly one month before his death. “Before that time comes,” he explains, ”I wish to use my last hours of ease and strength in telling the strange story of my experience.” The story thus comes as the confession of a dying man who entrusts his lifelong secrets to the reader’s sympathy. “I have never fully unbosomed myself to any human being,” he says.
Through a flashback structure, Latimer tells his “strange story,” beginning with childhood, when he first discovered that he had what he refers to as “superadded consciousness.” A sickly, unscholarly and dreamy child, Latimer is dominated by his father’s wish to expose him to all of the subjects he hates most: math, science, etc. At the age of 19, recovering from a long illness, Latimer finds that he is . . . Read More
Irving’s narrator opens “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with a brief description of Sleepy Hollow itself, “one of the quietest places in the whole world,” a place of “uniform tranquillity.” Before moving on to introduce his characters he concludes, ”If ever I should wish for a retreat, whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.” In this opening, Irving establishes Sleepy Hollow as both of-this-world and not-of-this-world, an “enchanted region” of unparalleled beauty and fertility. Tapping a literary tradition that stretches back literally thousands of years, he sets his story in a comic American version of what is often called an Earthly Paradise.
A. Bartlett Giamatti explains in his book The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic that “the desire for a state of perfect . . . Read More
The Dutch in New York
In its earliest days as an outpost for Europeans, New York was settled by the Dutch, or people from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Henry Hudson, referred to in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as “Master Hendrick Hudson,” sailed in 1609 from present-day New York City to Albany up what the Dutch called the Tappan Zee, and what is now called the Hudson River; the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York City commemorates this today. Hudson was British by birth, but was working for the Dutch East India Company, and after his explorations the Netherlands claimed what is now New York as its own territory. The first Dutch settlers arrived at present-day New York City in 1624. Although the territory eventually came under British and then American control, the Dutch people were still numerous and influential throughout New York in Irving’s day.
As with any ethnic group, stereotypes of the Dutch were . . . Read More
There is an almost dizzying number of levels of narration and narrators in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”: a) Washington Irving is the author of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. ; b) Geoffrey Crayon is the fictional author of the volume, the one responsible for collection or creating the stories and sketches; c) Diedrich Knickerbocker is the character who supposedly wrote down “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and in whose hand the postscript was “found,” presumably by Crayon; d) the legend was told to Knickerbocker by a ”pleasant, shabby, gentlemanly old fellow”; e) within the legend, the characters tell stories that they have heard or read, many of them concerning “a figure on horseback without a head.” Ichabod Crane, then, is a man who is frightened by a story within a story within a story within a story.
The narrators are not only numerous, but . . . Read More
City versus Country
One of the great themes of American literature and American folklore is the clash between the city and the country, between civilization and the wilderness. As the theme is played out in literature around the world, it carries one of two interpretations: either the city is seen as beautiful, civilized, rich, clean and safe, and the country is ugly, dirty and dangerous, or else the city is dirty and dangerous, populated by swindlers who love nothing better than tricking the kind, gentle people from the beautiful country. American folklore from the nineteenth century tends to favor the second view. Settlers were proud of their wilderness, and excited by it, and their stories celebrated the skills and qualities one needed to survive on the frontier. The heroes from this period—Daniel Boone, Mike Fink, Paul Bunyan, John Henry, the Swamp Angel—are rugged, strong and clever. When supposedly educated city slickers venture into . . . Read More
See Abraham Van Brunt
Ichabod Crane, the protagonist, is a stern schoolteacher and singing instructor who has come to Sleepy Hollow, New York, from Connecticut. He is lanky and sharp-featured, awkward and somewhat clumsy, but more educated and sophisticated than the native villagers. He is quite fond of food, and is well fed by the neighboring housewives, who share his delight in telling and re-telling ghost stories. When he sets his sights on marrying Katrina Van Tassel, it is not because of any feeling he has for her, but because her father is wealthy and Crane admires the food that is always displayed in the Van Tassel home. Katrina refuses him, however, preferring the manly and strong Brom Bones. In his disappointment Crane allows his imagination to run away with him. He is tricked by Brom into believing that he is being chased through the night by a headless horseman. In the . . . Read More
The story opens with a long descriptive passage offered in the first person by the narrator, who is revealed at the end of the story to be a man in a tavern who told the story to “D. K.” Irving’s contemporaries, and readers of the entire Sketch Book, know that “D. K.” is Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional author of an earlier book of Irving’s. The narrator describes the story’s setting, creating images of a quaint, cozy Dutch village, “one of the quietest places in the whole world,” in a “remote period of American history” that seemed long-ago even to Irving’s original readers. The village is not just far away and long ago; it is a magical place, “under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie.”
In this land lives Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher and singing instructor who comes from Connecticut. . . . Read More
One of the most often-discussed aspects of Ernest Hemingway’s writing is his distinctive style. Whereas many writers of his day were still heavily influenced by the verbose, extremely descriptive style of English and American authors of the nineteenth century such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Herman Melville, Hemingway was not. His literature is free of the extensive use of adjectives common in the work of many earlier writers, and of many of his immediate contemporaries. As a result, his work has often been described as sparse, objective, and journalistic. It’s also been called original, so much so that even readers who would not consider themselves scholars can immediately recognize a book, a story, or even a paragraph that he has written without knowing beforehand that he was its author. His style is so singular, in fact, that to this day there is an international writing contest held every year in which writers are asked to submit a short story in his style. . . . Read More
Ernest Hemingway’s story “In Another Country” takes place in a war hospital in Milan during World War I. The war began in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a member of the Hapsburg family, the rulers of what was then known as the AustroHungarian empire, was assassinated while on an official state visit to the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia. His killer was a young Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, a member of a secret underground organization who protested the Austro-Hungarian empire’s claim over their country. When the Austro-Hungarians demanded entrance to Bosnia so they could find and then bring to trial Ferdinand’s assassin, the Bosnian government refused, insisting they would conduct their own investigation. The Austro-Hungarians then declared war on Bosnia. Quickly, Germany allied with the Austro-Hungarian empire, while Russia, France and Great Britain allied with Bosnia, with Italy soon to follow.
The United States joined World War I at . . . Read More