Gender Issues in Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Gender Issues in Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow At first glance, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving seems to be an innocent tale about a superstitious New England town threatened by a strange new comer, Icabod Crane. However, this descriptive narrative is more than just a simple tale because it addresses several gender issues that deserve attention. The pervasiveness of female influence in Sleepy Hollow and the conflict between male and female storytelling in this Dutch community are two pertinent gender issues that complicate Irving's work and ultimately enable the women of Sleepy Hollow to control the men and maintain order. Irving's main character, Icabod Crane, causes a stir and disrupts…show more content…
Rather, we are left with a sense of relief at Crane's removal from Sleepy Hollow. Thus the tale presents a stark contrast to "Rip Van Winkle." In that story, women attempt and fail to confront men openly; in Sleepy Hollow, female behavior is much more subversive and effective. Female behavior in Sleepy Hollow is a result of its feminine setting. Irving's tale preserves the maintenance of the feminine and the landscape is described as having maternal characteristics. For example, Sleepy Hollow lies "in the bosom" of a cove lining the Hudson (Irving 948), and the valley is "embosomed in the great state of New York" (Irving 950). Clearly the repose and security of Sleepy Hollow rest in the maternal landscape - an assumption so pervasive that even our male narrator attests to it. For as he observes, the act of naming falls to women in this Dutch village. For example, "The good house-wives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days, " have named the nearby "rural port" "Tarry Town" (Irving 948). The name and power of naming thus operates as a gently sarcastic means of reproaching unruly husbands and of preserving female dominance over the Hollow. In the beginning of the tale Irving describes the narrator as
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