Mateo Falcone by Prosper Mérimée, 1829 Continue reading
‘The Adventure Of The German Student’ by Washington Irving
The Adventure Of The German Student by Washington Irving, 1824 Continue reading
‘The Bold Dragoon, Or The Adventure Of My Grandfather’ by Washington Irving
The Bold Dragoon, Or The Adventure Of My Grandfather by Washington Irving, 1824 Continue reading
‘The Stout Gentleman’ by Washington Irving
The Stout Gentleman by Washington Irving, 1822 Continue reading
‘The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, 1820 Continue reading
‘The Devil And Tom Walker’ by Washington Irving
The Devil And Tom Walker by Washington Irving, 1824
The magic trick:
Calling into question early on the veracity of the story
The history of American literature is rooted in oral storytelling. Irving, of course a very important part of those roots, makes sure to establish “The Devil And Tom Walker” in a faux-oral tradition. Irving alternates between a third-person omniscient narration and the voice of a neighborhood storyteller.
The key moment comes when he discusses the disappearance of Tom Walker’s wife. He writes: “What her real fate nobody knows, in consequence of so many pretending to know.” The story, at this point, is no longer simply a scary tale or even Christian allegory. The story becomes about storytelling, the way communities pass on their own myths and history. And that’s quite a trick on Irving’s part.
The most current and probable story, however, observes, that Tom Walker grew so anxious about the fate of his wife and his property, that he set out at length to seek them both at the Indian fort. During a long summer’s afternoon he searched about the gloomy place, but no wife was to be seen. He called her name repeatedly, but she was nowhere to be heard.