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Sanctuaries in Washington Irving's «The Sketch Book»

The Sketch Book


Hugo G. Walter

The present volume comprises a collection of wonderful and insightful essays exploring the theme of sanctuaries in Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book. These are sanctuaries of natural beauty, peacefulness, architectural splendor, and mythical vitality. In addition, the book presents a short history of sanctuaries in nineteenth-century American and European literature.
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Chapter 3: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


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In Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” the first paragraph offers a potent and important image of sanctuary. The author is describing one of the lovely coves on the eastern side of the Hudson River around the area of the Tappan Zee in which is nestled the small town of Tarrytown. Near this delightful town is a small valley surrounded by hills “which is one of the quietest places in the whole world” (329). The tranquil aura of this small valley is affirmed in its brook with calming waters and in the sporadic birdsong which sometimes is heard as a complement or supplement to the profound serenity and represents an integral part of it. This is a space permeated by lovely and harmonious sounds of the natural environment.

The narrator describes in the next paragraph his own youthful interest in squirrel-shooting in a forest on one side of the valley. While not showing any remorse or doubt about the acceptability of such an activity in this profoundly quiet ambience, although he does say that the use of the gun produced very audible noise, the narrator concludes his awareness of the importance of such a valley by asserting that if he were ever interested in finding a comforting refuge where he could liberate himself from the world of everyday mortality and its hardships, this serene valley would be the optimal choice. That the sense of quiet...

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