In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving, what explanation is given for why there are more ghost stories in a long-settled village?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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During Irving's time, the United States were young compared with those in Europe, but there was a great movement of pioneers heading for the ever-expanding frontier. As the country grew, more and more people moved in a westerly direction, giving no time for anyone to really settle for as long of a time as the earlier settlements from the pre-revolutionary period. Irving says that,

"local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long-settled retreats," because "there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon"(11).

In the "long-established Dutch communities," however, the people there had roots that went far back into the late 1600s, so there was a longer period of time to accumulate the ghost stories, to retell them, and to pass them on from one generation to the next. Anyone living in the 1800s who wasn't attached to those communities sought out life and fortune in the west, like that of the 1849 Gold Rush. To that end, long-established communities who have families that date back for more that just a few generations probably twisted and added to the tales as they were passed along and that is what made their history, and the stories, so great.

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