What are some literary devices in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a delightful story because of the comic ability and clever satire of its author, Washington Irving. The names of the characters in this narrative are certainly humorous:  Ichabod and Brom Bones, Old Baltus Van Tassel, Hans Van Ripper, etc. The huge daughter of Van Tassel is humorously referred to as "the peerless daughter."

In addition, Irving employs figurative language. For instance, in describing Brom Bones, Irving writes,

This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries,[metaphor] and though his amorous toyings [metaphor for his attempts] were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear,[simile]...

Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates [metaphor] to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours...[metaphor]

There are many more metaphors and similes in this comical history.  For example, when Ichabod is frightened he is "appalled by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, [simile] beset his very path!"  When Ichabod enters Katrina's house "the conquest of his heart was complete" [figurative language].

In discussing how "women's hearts are wooed and won," Irving writes,

It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for the man must battle for his fortress [metaphor] at every door and window.  He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero.

Ichabod Crane would be such a hero as he borrows a horse from a farmer and mounts it, "issued forth, like a knight-errant in quest of adventures [simile].  It is here that Irving's satiric humor also takes hold as Crane, an "unskillful rider," is compared to one of the knights-errant in King Arthur's tales who rides to the "castle of the Heer Van Tassel."

In addition to his humor, Washington Irving is renowned for his creative imagery.  His descriptions of the fields that Crane passes, taking note of the fruit, contain many sensory words:

vast stores of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees;...great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, ...fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the bee-hive, ...

One paragraph replete with imagery is as follows:

The small birds were taking their farewell banquets.  In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping, and frolicking, from bush to bush...capricious from the very profusion and variety around them.  There was the honest cock-robin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in sable coulds; and the golden-tipt tail, and its little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light-blue coat and white underclothes; screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every sonster of the grove.

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