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Washington Irving can be directly accredited as an American author of abundant and exciting influence for many fellow writers of his time. The Romanticist Period was taking flight, and Irving was arguably its greatest asset and example of this time. Even today, Irving is considered the first great American writer. Not only did he gain acclamation among his peers and readers in the United States, but also writers and readers in England took considerably note of him and greatly enjoyed his writing style. Charles Dickens may have been the best example of a British author who drew tremendous influence in his writing from Irving. Irving was and is truly important and vital to America's writing history, alongside being a benchmark for modern authors. It was definitely best that his family business failed, forcing him back into his career as a Romanticist author.
Gothic writing was probably what he was most known for. Americans and people in general during this period were fans of the more dark setting of writing. First, there were the three major reasons which developed Romanticism. Religiously, there was the breakup of New England Calvinist sects, and the compromise of Unitarianism between Calvinism and Deism. Religion has always been a major part of American writing, going back to John Smith and John Winthrop during the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Next, there was the great influence of German, French, and British Romanticist authors on the United States. From authors to readers, there was a definite influence taken in by the American public during the 1800s. Finally, there was the rise of political nationalism, which in turn fueled cultural naturalism. America was beginning to have shared cultural ideas, as opposed to only ones based upon ethnicity. All three of these causes combined made the Romanticist Temper what it was. The United States, as well as England, was revolting against the standards of The Age of Enlightenment, along with the scientific rationalization of nature. People were starting to think for themselves and not leaving what they believed up to scientists and social doctrines of their ancestors. Change was happening and happening quite quickly. Writers were probably the most significant individuals at getting their ideas across this time and justifiably so. They were able to eloquently write their thoughts down for everyone to read. Washington Irving was the first well-known writer of this time. His gothic style gave the people what they wanted. He was extremely interesting and related his writings to them time with tremendous accuracy and fervor. He was the perfect author for this time period. The Sketch Book was his greatest and most known work. Comprised of "The Legend of Sleepy" and "Rip Van Winkle," it was the perfect example of not only the Romanticist Period as a whole but specifically, the gothic style. Washington Irving wrote in this style exceedingly well. There was no one like him; that was until Edgar Allen Poe came into the picture. His fictional stories began drawing people in and captivating them just as much as the writings of Irving did and still manage to do today. Poe did just as Irving did. He gave the people what they wanted. Americans were entranced by the subtle, dark stories during this period. Poe was ingenious in his gothic style, just like Irving before him, and maybe more so. The only major difference between the two was that Poe wrote more stories in a shorter life. This was in part due to the previously stated fact that Irving was not always wrapped up in writing. He once had a family business that went south, which forced him into writing. Poe, on the other hand, was the first well-known American writer to pursue a living, solely based on being an author. This led to an extremely difficult financial life and career. Of his most known writings, "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Cask of Amontillado," can be compared to Irving's, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," for their gothic styles.
To begin, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," by Irving was a very dark and decrepit story. He was giving the people just what they wanted. As Irving often does in his writing, the story is presented by someone other than himself. ""The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is presented by Crayon as having come from the papers of Diedrich Knickerbocker, Irving's fictive historian, the "source" for many of his New York-area tales." Knickerbocker was created by Irving as a fictional historian and his source for many of his New York based stories. Ichabod Crane, his main character, comes to the small Dutch village of Tarrytown following the American Revolution. He is a lanky school teacher, who falls for the local beauty, Katrina Van Tassel. Brom Bones, known as a stout man, has an eye for her too and is arranged to marry her. Ichabod musters up the courage to go see her at a party one night and manages to have an exceptional evening with her. He tells the story of the headless Hessian horseman, having no idea that when he rides home that night of his fate. He is chased by the horseman through the woods, and the next morning there is no sign of him, other than his hat and the broken lantern, which leaves everything up to speculation and assumption. Ichabod only wanted to have an enjoyable evening with a nice girl that he likes, but unbeknownst to him, there were much different things in store. Irving's character has absolutely no luck. Just when everything seems to be going his way, he is never seen or heard from again. Even without the happy ending, the story is noted as being more "humorous than horrifying." Readers during the 1800s craved mystery and darkness. The ironic and imaginative Irving does this exceedingly well in his gothic-centered masterpiece. His gothic materials are known as both "sportive and inconclusive." The reader does not know exactly what they are getting, even once the story is complete, but that is where the beauty is derived. It is dark and horrific in the elements and storyline, but in depth Irving has no equal during his time; or does he?
Edgar Allen Poe came into fame not too many years later and is still as popular today for his gloomy and melancholy tales, just as much as his demeanor and tone put into each word. Poe can be greatly compared with Irving for their writing styles and their audiences of interest. Poe uses gothic foundations in quite a few stories. It was well-know that Poe wrote stories about incredibly bleak, terrifying, and terrible events, but he takes everything a few steps beyond that of Irving. His most known would have to be "The Tell-Tale Heart." The main character, peeved by his neighbor, kidnaps him in the night, kills him and buries him underneath his home. He eventually feels bad though and tells the police of his terrible deed. This, as opposed to the not as known, "The Cask of Amontillado," where Montresor feels absolutely no remorse for the terrible act he commits. Montresor lures Fortunato down below his house into the catacombs, promising him Amontillado. He leads Fortunato into the dark, damp catacombs, with no intention of retrieving any Amontillado. His motives all along were of a vile and sinister plot to leave Fortunato down there without any hope, chance, or possibility of escape. Just like Ichabod Crane in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Fortunato had no clue as to what was in store for him down deep in those catacombs, and just like Ichabod; he chose to be there. Montresor acts like he is looking out for Fortunato and caring for him when he hears his cough and says, "We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible." Fortunato will have none of it, though. His sights were fixed on the Amontillado, and just as Montresor had hoped; he was blindly being led to his own death. When they finally reach their destination, Montresor was ready to head back and called out to Fortunato, and to his delight there was no reply. He plastered in the final brick and went on his way, with only him ever knowing what happened to Fortunato but not a single person knowing why. The writing in "The Cask of Amontillado" does not tell exactly what was happening in the story and does not have to. Poe's mysteriousness and dark, settle ingenious is what drew and still draws people in. He always accomplished exactly what he meant to.
Edgar Allen Poe picked up where Washington Irving left off. As stated previously, their style of writing and elements are extremely similar. They both enlisted a dark and gothic approach into their stories, and then added their own personal flavor and touch. Washington Irving was the first great American writer, instilling current and true events for his time into cryptic tales that people loved to read. He was a master. Edgar Allen Poe's writings were a bit shadowy and sketchy, too, and then he really started to get going. Poe, simply put, was "out there." He was in his own crazy, unorthodox world, but he was also a brilliant writer. He and Irving set the standard, for not only depressing and dark stories, but the future of American writers as a whole. There were gigantic shoes left to be filled since they passed, and some guy named King took Poe's and Irving's writings to a whole new level of madness. There may not be a Stephen King without Washington Irving, Edgar Allen Poe, and a little thing called imagination.