About the Author
Washington Irving (1783-1859)
Washington Irving was an American writer and diplomat serving as the American ambassador to Spain in the 1840s. He is best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.” Irving was an advocate for writing as a respectable profession and fought for stronger laws to protect authors from copyright infringement. Irving studied law, passing the bar exam in 1806, but was uninterested in practicing. Washington Irving is credited as the first American man to earn his living by his pen.
Washington Irving liked to name characters in his stories after people he had met; Ichabod Crane was the name of an army captain Irving met during Irving’s service as an aide-de-camp to the governor of New York. The character was probably based on his friend Jesse Merwin. Katrina Van Tassel was inspired by a real woman of that name. Irving had stayed with her family for several months and asked her permission to use her name. The decapitated Hessian soldier who became the headless horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was based on a headless corpse found after a battle and buried by the Van Tassel family of Sleepy Hollow.
He was notable for coining the name “Gotham” for New York City and credited for coining the phrase “the almighty dollar.” Hi writings also influenced the way Americans celebrated Christmas, reviving traditions that had been lost in England. Washington Irving died of a heart attack on November 28, 1859 at age 76.
“Rip Van Winkle” (1819)
A man gets more than he bargains for when he hides in the woods to escape his wife’s nagging and comes back to find everything has changed.
Questions for “Rip Van Winkle”
How would you describe Rip Van Winkle’s character? What is the narrator’s view of Rip?
How does the author seem to view marriage? What lines from the book support this view?
What has changed after Rip Van Winkle wakens?
What clues tell you how much time has passed?
Do you think Rip’s character is changed by his experience? Why?
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