How does Washington Irving depict life in New York?    

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two of Washington Irving's most famous short stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," take place in rural New York near the Hudson River.  "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" takes place in Sleepy Hollow, New York, next to Tarrytown. Both towns are located along the Hudson River.  The two small towns are still in existence today.  "Rip Van Winkle" takes place in an unnamed village at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Mountain range.

Irving depicts rural New York as being quiet and peaceful with a sense of mystery and the supernatural.  The villages in his stories are full of friendly people who enjoy tradition.  Many of these people are Dutch or of Dutch ancestry.  

The natural landscapes in Irving's stories are idyllic, whether they are the looming Catskill Mountains or the winding Hudson River.  In "Rip Van Winkle," Irving describes the village near the mountains:

At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape.

Rip's village is depicted as being tranquil with a green landscape and the mountains in the distance.  Tranquility is also depicted in the description of the setting in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:" 

Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world.  A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

Irving describes Sleepy Hollow as being a quiet place, nestled between hills.  The only sounds are those of the a murmuring brook and an occasional bird.

A touch of the supernatural and mystery is evident in both locations.  In the Catskill Mountains, Rip comes across the mysterious ghostly figures of men in old Dutch costume.  Sleepy Hollow is a place where people love ghost stories.  There is a special interest in the legend of the Headless Horseman.