Irving's Portrayal of Women in His Novels

Irving's Portrayal of Women in His Novels

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In his stories the women were not portrayed as nice. Women were usually nagging and would fight with their husbands. Some critics felt that Irving took an anti-feminism approach to his writing. However some critic feel that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow shows importance of marriage. Some critics also argue the quality of his work. Some pieces of his work are considered remarkable. While other pieces of his work are considered not to be that good.
Irving’s health was also not very good and he had tuberculosis. So his brothers decided to send him overseas to Rome to recover. Irving was engaged to Matilda Hoffman. Matilda Hoffman passed away suddenly and Irving took her death pretty hard. Irving did go out with two women over two years but remained a bachelor his entire life.
In RIP Van Winkle, Dam Van Winkle is abusive, nagging, and sarcastic. In Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving states that “but what courage can with stand the ever-during and all besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue.” He seems to imply that he did not like women who gave their opinions and spoke their mind. It seems that Rip is going into the woods to escape his wife.
In the Devil and Tom Walker Tom’s wife has a temper, loud mouth and she was strong . His face sometimes showed signs that their fighting may have been more than words. She would hide things from Tom. They did not have a very good marriage. Again Irving portrayed the wife as loud and nagging.
In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Irving portrayed women differently. Katrina Van Tassel is very beautiful, sexy and a flirt. Katrina knew what the power of her beauty could do. Although Katrina isn’t a nag like Dam Van Winkle, she was bad in a different way. Katrina seemed to know what and who she wanted and was willing to use her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants.
In my opinion, Irving did not like women very much. He seemed to think that most women were nagging and abusive or they would use their beauty to get what they want. He seemed to think that most men wanted to get back or get even with women. I don’t think that his portrayal of Dame Van Winkle was fair. He portrayed her as being mean and unfair to Rip.

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However, I believe that she had a right to nag since he seemed lazy and did not work.
I also noticed that in some of Irving’s stories the wives didn’t have a first name. In Rip Van Winkle his wife was called Dame Van Winkle. Why didn’t Irving give her a first name? Also in the Devil and Tom Walker she was referred to as Tom’s wife. Irving gave all the men names but not women. I also noticed that the women were not usually the main characters in his stories. Usually men were the main characters in his stories. I agree with some of the critics that he was an anti-feminist.
The culture and women’s roles were different prior to 1960 or 1970. The role women played was different then it is today. Back then women would take care of the children, house and men. They would spend most of the time cleaning, making meals, caring for the children. Today, most women also work outside of the house. However, it does not sound like the wives in Irving’s stories took very care of their house. In Rip Van Winkle the house was pretty run down and did not seem very clean. In The Devil and Tom Walker it sounds like Tom’s wife was always trying to hide things from him so I would guess that she did not spend most of her time cleaning and cooking.
The fact that Irving was never married might have something to do with him being an anti-feminist. He had a fiancée but never had a chance to get married. Later he was supposed to get married but never did. Some critics thought that Irving did not know what to think of women. I agree with that to some point. Had his fiancée lived, I am not so sure if he would have gone through with the wedding.
I do believe that he showed anti-feminism in his stories to some point. I do not like the way he portrayed women in his stories. He seemed to portray most of them as being nagging, bossy and sarcastic. He didn’t seem to have very good relationships with women. I do think that he is a mysterious person himself. I am not sure if some of this has to do with upbringing or not. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of Washington Irving. I am not sure if Irving felt that women should be equal and have equal rights to men or not. I do think that he could have a female as the main character in some of his stores or at least he could portray them as being nice or not using their beauty to get what they want.

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