Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” Pairs Well with Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

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July 24, 2019

Washington Irving is one of the greatest American authors. During this semester, we read Irving’s Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I personally felt a deeper connection to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow because I used to live in New York state prior to my family moving to Texas.

The way that Irving describes the beautiful scenery of the North East was a trip down memory lane for me. I also enjoyed the plot of the story, as it came across as a funny story rather than a horror story, as I thought it would be. Because the story plays out that Brom was playing a joke on Ichabod, the story read out like a long practical joke and the plot of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was light and funny.

A light story (one that a reader could still think about) would pair well with the Washington Irving stories. Because we read the Washington Irving stories under the theme of romance in class, I would recommend a book written by Edith Wharton. I adore books written by Edith Wharton because the descriptions that she writes portrays beautiful scenery and pictures and the reader feels as if he or she was really there with the characters. I read a book titled Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction and I couldn’t help but make a connection between the short stories of Edith Wharton to the Sketch book that Washington Irving made.

The story of Ethan Frome is about a man who searches for love and finds it with the wrong girl. Like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, there is a tragic love along the story. The plot is interesting because there are unexpected turns, for example the character that Ethan Frome falls in love with is Mattie Silver, the cousin to his wife. Thus, there is a love triangle between Ethan Frome, Mrs. Frome, and Mattie Silvers. This is similar to the plot of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow because the reader is aware of a love triangle between the main character, Ichabod Crane, Brom Van Brunt, and Katherine Van Tassel.

The two stories are also similar because they both have grim undertones. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad by the fact that Ichabod did not end up marrying Katherine Van Tassel. There was no happy ending for any of the characters because the reader does not find out about the future of Katherine Van Tassel or Brom Van Brunt. Similarly in Ethan Frome, the main couple dies in a tragic accident after finding out that they could never be together.

The two stories compliment each other because they give the reader a similar feeling. The stories also share a similar plot line and are written by notable American authors.

Christine Perera is a special guest blogger this week. In Spring 2019, Christine wrote this blog specifically for the Washington Irving Society page. She submitted the blog as an optional assignment for Dr. Tracy Hoffman’s 2304 American Literature class at Baylor University. This was not a formal paper assignment, but a casual blog response to the reading. Please feel free to leave comments about Christina’s response here on the website.

Published in: on July 24, 2019 at 3:53 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. The aristocratic Mrs. Edith Wharton was born Jones in a fashionable quarter of New York, arriving appropriately during the quarrel between masters about servants, known as the Civil War. The parents of the novelist were without talent, being mere people of the world. From them into her veins ran Rhinelanders, Stevens, early Howes, and Schermerhorns intact. Her corpuscles were Holland burghers, Colonial colonels, and provincial gentry who with the passage of time had become Avenue patricians—patrons of Protestant church and Catholic grand opera as the two highest forms of public worship, a strict clan making intercellular marriages, attending winter balls, dominating certain smart spots on the eastern seaboard, and unaware of any signs of life further west. In blood they were old, Dutch and British, the only form of being American that they knew. As a child among them, little Miss Jones started living in what Mrs. Wharton later entitled their Age of Innocence—a hard hierarchy of male money, of female modesty and morals.


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