Washington Irving

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Student Question

Do any other Washington Irving stories, besides "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", involve politics of the time?

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You might like to consider "The Devil and Tom Walker" and the way that it describes the involvement of the devil figure that appears in this story in various political events of America, especially regarding its genesis. Although these aren't specifically related to any of the major political events that we can see referred to in, for example, "Rip Van Winkle," such as the Civil War, at the same time, there is definitely a sense in which this tale, like all of Irving's other tales, can be considered a political satire that criticises America's past involvement in a variety of crimes. Note how the devil presents himself in "The Devil and Tom Walker":

I am he to whom the red men consecrated this spot, and in honour of whom they now and then roasted a white man, by way of sweet-smelling sacrifice. Since the red men have been exterminated by you white savages, I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of Quakers and Anabaptists; I am the great patron and prompter of slave dealers, and the grand master of the Salem witches.

Clearly, the devil links himself to major events of America's past such as the Salem witch trials, the slave trade and the eradication of the indigenous peoples of America. These are clearly very political in a number of ways.

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