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Washington Irving

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  • Washington Irving


    Washington Irving has been called "the father of the American short story."  He is best known for his stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and "Rip Van Winkle."  

    Before you begin reading one of Irving's short stories, think about how you would respond to the following statements:

    • There is a devil who tries to trick people.
    • Money is the number one goal for most people in today's society.
    • Integrity is more important than money.
    • When you marry, what is yours should become your spouse's and vice versa.
    • It is okay to lie to your spouse if the lie will not hurt him or her.

    It might help you to jot down your reactions to each of these statements.

    You will be reading the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker."  This short story is considered a satire (we examined satire at the end of last quarter).  What exactly is Irving ridiculing?  What change would he like to see? 

    Tom Walker's wife is a stereotypical character. This makes the story a good one to use with Feminist Literary Theory.
    What generalizations are being made about women based on the wife's characteristics? 

    The story uses a lot of symbolism. It might help to note the symbols below.

     Reading Assignment

    Washington Irving's short story is attached below. Read it!

    Here are just a few of the symbols in the story and their possible meaning to help you understand:

    • The Devil: temptation
    • The shortcut through the swamp: shortcuts to obtain wealth
    • The swamp: where the shortcuts to wealth usually lead
    • The rotted trees in the forest: the moral decay of society
    • The tallness of the trees: the pride of the people
    • Tom Walker: greed
    • The Bible buried under mortgage papers: greed and moral decay
    • Tom Walker's new house: false appearances; "trying to keep up with the Joneses"
    Works Cited
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