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Irvings American Progeny

Irving’s American Progeny Washington Irving had the unique opportunity of helping a new nation forge its own identity. America, fresh out of the revolution, looked for an author to take charge and create something that seemed to be missing from the newly born nation. He took this responsibility seriously and made a mythology that founded an American literary tradition. He took bits and pieces from the Old World and incorporated them into the New in such a manner that what he wrote appeared original, and yet tied into a tradition that was centuries old. He did this in a manner that astonished many Europeans who believed an American could never produce literature with such a strong English foundation. Although Irving relied heavily on European influence, he drew distinct lines between the American and the European and his plot lines illustrate the struggle between the United States and England. This amazing period in the nation’s history provided an excellent backdrop for Irving’s work. “‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ (is)…a celebration of the bounty of the United States,” (Bowden, 72). This bounty fueled the fire of social change that was burning in the U.S. at the time. “If we ever had a period during which social progress was not retarded then it was exactly the period Rip slept through. In that generation we were transformed from a group of loosely bound and often provincial colonies into a cocky and independent republic with a new kind of government and—as the story itself makes clear enough—a whole new and new-fashioned spirit,” (Young, 466). Irving took full advantage of the new scene around him, and immortalized himself by demonstrating the importance of what he saw. “‘When I first wrote the Legend of Rip Van Winkle,” so Irving remembered it in 1843, “my thoughts had been for some time turned towards giving a color of romanc...

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