Why did Washington Irving write "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

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

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While some controversy still exists over whether Irving is the creator of the basic storyline of "Sleepy Hollow," his purpose in writing the story in the manner that he did is original to him.

First, Irving was part of the Early American Literature movement which sought to establish America as a place with a culture and identity of it own away from European ideas and culture.  Irving is one of the first American authors to become popular outside of the United States, and that speaks highly of his style and subjects.  In "Sleepy Hollow," Irving paints a picture of early American superstitions, traditions, and culture.  He also marries old legends with a new American style of satire.

Secondly, Irving's story is a satire.  He mocks the superstitions that many small town Americans held.  He exaggerates the tedious life of the local schoolmaster, along with the control that wealthy landowners possessed in old American communities.  In the end, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is certainly an entertaining tale, but it is also a satirical portrait of many early American idiosyncrasies.

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