Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” are provocative satiric commentaries on American cultural issues. Discuss.

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Both Irving short stories provide a satiric commentary on American social issues, especially the difference between a "European" and an "American" outlook on life. As part of the myth building of a new country, Irving uses both stories to poke fun at the remnants of "European" thinking in US culture and to contrast this unfavorably to the robust new spirit of Americanism.

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the thin, effete, bookish, and superstitious Ichabod Crane, who wants to marry into money rather than work hard to get ahead, is the representative of worn-out European traditions. He is an unpleasant character who is pitted against the all American, red-blooded, hardworking he-man Brom Bones. Brom is a cheerful prankster and well-beloved as the leader of his male friends, while Crane surrounds himself with women. In the end, Brom's pragmatic common sense outwits Crane's nervous bookishness when Brom's "headless horseman" prank drives Crane out of town and away from Katrina, the woman both men are vying for.

In "Rip Van Winkle," the unfocused, apathetic Rip is the representative of the old colonial order. He has no ambition and would rather hang out in front of the inn discussing old news than doing anything to improve his life. When he falls asleep for twenty years and wakes up to find that New York is no longer a colony but part of a robust democracy in the new United States, he can hardly understand the energy that possesses the young men as they participate in an election. Rip remains as a curious relic of the old days when Americans were passive subjects to a king rather than engaged citizens in a republic.

In both cases, American verve, wit, and robustness is shown as superior to weak, backward looking Europeanism.

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