The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Folklore in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Folklore is the traditional beliefs and stories of a community throught generation by orality. The historical context is introduced by place and time. The action was in a small village named Sleepy Hollow around where a hessian soldier was decapited after the Revolutionary War. With the help of imagination Irving Washington created a supernatural world. He wrote a biblical myth under his characters. The villagers trust in a ghost, Headless Horseman, in witches, demons etc. The most important thing is the conflict between Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane because reflect the conflict found in early American folklore. In my paper I will prove that folklore is constructed by a true historical story with a supernatural contrast.
According to narrator in paragraph 50, ”This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war – it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and been infested with refugees, cow boys, and all kinds of border chivarly. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit.”
This paragraph suggest that the past and the historical truth became malleable because they should to be exist in future. To improve somethig mean that should to be exist something and cand be transmitted by mouth. Also, the passage present the fact that in Sleepy Hollow the villagers have our version of history. It is suggest the presence of a war where as a pricipal subject a hessian soldier was killed near Sleepy Hollow. Irving Washington centred the fiction in a real village started with a horror scene, a decapitation around the village after Revolutionary War. Those, the time and the place are really truly. Dealing with American scenes, adaptations of German folklor the story is a romantic defense of Native Americans.
One of the supernatural elements is the legend of Headless Horseman. ”Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under foot, by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarce had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have traveled away from the neighborhood, so that when they turn out of a night to walk the rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long established Dutch communities.” According to narrator in paragraph 52 it is suggest the superstition of community in a ghost. There are crime and they are scary. For that they search an explanation. Headless Horseman is a demon, a collector of souls and heads who ride every night of Halloween. ”The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others, were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the galloping Hessian.” (1.71)
Another supernatural aspect is the town. It is describe with a atmosphere of terror: the valley around the soldier died, a supernatural tree, a church where the ghost cannot entry and the bridge where Ichabod Crane saw a black horse and a rider without head. ”A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.” (1.3)
The action focus on the conflict between Ichabod Crane and Bram Bones. They are rivall and Brom try to intimidate Ichabod. Also, they fight for Katrina Van Tassel. When Ichabod come bach on a path he was scaried by a dark horse with a rider without head. In fact the conflict between them reflect the conflict between Englithment and Romantic ideals.
In conclusion, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a folktale with a supernatural elements. Firstly, the historical context is a real story and centred the fiction in time and space very favorable for that time.Secondly, the supernatural is present in description of the legend, in background, but so in characters. On the other hand, the conflict suggest very well the evil showed by Headless Horseman. Those, with the contrast of natural, truth and imagination Washington Irving create a fascinated book represent the myths of American ideals.
- Christopher R. and Jeffrey B. Webb Editors, American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, Vol. I: A-F, p. 463-467.
- History and Storytelling,Theme Analysis, Avalabile at https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-legend-of-sleepy-hollow/themes. Accessed on 23 August 2019.
- Patrick, Browne, October 31, 2011, The Story Behind Sleepy Hollow, Available at https://historicaldigression.com/2011/10/31/the-story-behind-sleepy-hollow/. Accessed on 15 August 2019.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Summary and Analysis. (2016, Oct 30). Available at https://studymoose.com/the-legend-of-sleepy-hollow-summary-and-analysis-essay. Accessed 19 August 2019.
- Washington, Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Nature and Mankind in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
There is a lot to learn about nature. In the book it talks about Ichabod who goes mostly outside and he is a nature lover. The real life natural world can be also dangerous in many ways such as frightening insects and ferocious animals around the world. Sometimes there are beautiful things instead. For example, an attractive sunset, a crisp cut lawn, and an astonishing forest with pretty flowers are all beautiful things. Nature does not let people get bored, it always has something new to show. It is always there when someone is sad and is still there when there are no worries. Some people like Ichabod might not notice this special quality about nature, because they are too focused on other things that their heart desires. He believed in supernatural things. Ichabod enjoyed this fantasy. He was always amazed to listen to the Dutch wives’ stories about terrifying spirits and haunting ghosts.
People have believed in myths to have magic beings that often focus on ways that can be managed by natural things. It does not matter if the unrealistic characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow seem real in the story because the characters in the book influenced the readers and they enjoyed reading it. In the story Ichabod strongly believes in fictional stories that includes specters and other supernatural beings. His enjoyment does not last too long because it becomes fear and horror. For example, he imagines himself into the story and that becomes a reality for him. People began to move away from enjoying nature and look forward to the supernatural when the framer, Crane leaves Sleepy Hollow. Soon “the place abounds with local tales, haunted spots, twilight superstitions and nightmares” (pg: 2, par: 2) Throughout most of the tale, natural surroundings signal the mood of the tale.
The animals in this story have a special role. The scenes of the animals had set up the story. They were in the background but described the theme of family gatherings in the book. The animals have families, with whom they argued, but also had good times, when they had parties. They usually did the activities that humans are usually known to do. Their activities are just like humans. In the book “files of wild duck made their appearance high in the air (pg: 25, par: 1)” From the book, the animals are seen as the main characters of this story. Nature and the animals are the only things in the story that are real and can be trusted. The other characters that are human seem unrealistic and reminds people that it’s all just a fairy tale.
As Americans were suffering from a cultural issue, Irving gave them a sense of a national story that was something that related to them. People favored his stories because it was a form of entertainment and that encouraged Irving, and he began to “write for pleasure and to give pleasure” (pg: II, par: 2) to others in different ways. The stories gave him fame. He is often considered as the first great American writer and his tales are the first great works inspired by many other uniquely American folklore. Over the next several years he would visit other locations in the Hudson River Valley and hear many old Dutch legends which influenced his writing. In the next few years he highlighted the bounty of America’s natural resources.
Nature and mankind have an important relationship in Sleepy Hollow. Both are necessary in this story, they connect the points. In Sleepy Hollow, man’s relationship with the natural world is simply to dominate it or that is what Ichabod would think. Nature can sometimes do the same and disturb humans. Irving is writes about how the theme of imagination, brings the supernatural in the story. He used his creativity to entertain people when they needed it most.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Story’s Landscape and Theme
Rendition of the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Night had seemed colder than before. Even ice itself began to crust against the wrinkles of his weary eyes. Frigid wind and numbing frost had begun to take away his warm touch, which has slowly become frozen as the snow. Blizzards he has encountered before, but this one felt to be a greater threat. It had looked as if Mother Nature herself had tried to intervene with his journey.
But Frederick persevered, not wavering to the unforgiving storm. Searching for refuge, he plummeted down into the deep unknown forest. Shivering, he found an abandoned cave and mustered all his diminishing strength to scurry inside. Greeted with the sounds of drip-drops of melting icicles he was once inside. The cave appeared dark and bleak, with a sense of loneliness that pervaded throughout the cave. Accompanied only by his mere shadow, he had sensed this and sorrowfully gathered some firewood from his partly torn satchel and began to spark a fire.
The fire crackled and sparked, dulling out the eerie silence as Frederick questioned his initial motive; to map out Sleepy Hollow. As a cartographer, he had helped map out most of the Northeastern shore. But the west frontier of New York still appeared somehow a mystery. An adventure to an unknown place seemed tantalizing for a natural pioneer. But fruitless searches along the Hudson River– where Sleepy Hollow was rumored to be located– during his past few years had indefinitely battered his hope as well as his own body. His soft brown hair had turned rugged dark gray, his hands, short and stubby, were cut and torn from wear-and-tear, like old leather. His eyes had grown tired and lifeless. His legs were thin to the bone. His clothes were also at the mercy of his travels, either partly ripped at the seam, lost buttons, or loosely patched. Frederick was weary both in mind and body, but with his last shred of hope, he promised himself that if he did not find Sleepy Hollow in this last expedition, he would forfeit the search indefinitely.
As night progressed, he slept through the night tossing and turning, with no help for comfort. It was not the cold, hard ground that bothered him, yet the thought of failing to discover for one’s eyes the legend that was Sleepy Hollow. After a few hours he finally found some rest. With eyes shut and relaxed breathing, he fell asleep. However, not long after did he awaken to the disturbing sounds of groans and mumbles; alerted like a deer to a wolf’s howl. Frederick searched around the cave and outside, now that the blizzard had died out. The groans continued, and eventually led him to a man, around mid-twenties of age, wearing a schoolteacher’s apparel and a ghastly wound to the forehead. Unconscious, the man appeared to have been hit by a large pumpkin, due to the opened gash and orange smear on his face. With a few medical supplies he had left, he attended to the man’s wounds as much as he could.
The man’s wound too severe, but the man recovered enough to awake dozily after the opened gash was stitched and disinfected. He spoke softly, but eloquently, of the location of Sleepy Hollow, where he said to have left a lover who married a brute named Brom Bones. The man said that a feared spirit in Sleepy Hollow called the Headless Horseman was a fraud. The man said he had been chased by this unknown being and before being knocked out by a thrown pumpkin, he saw the face of the very man who took away his love. In conclusion, the man requested Frederick before death to go to Sleepy Hollow and to provide evidence to convict Brom Bones of posing as the Headless Horseman, and for frightening the local townspeople with this persona. He did not know what to say, and before choosing yes or no, the man died. Afterward, he packed up his things, gave a last blessing to the corpse and moved out.
The way to Sleepy Hollow was very close but the trail to there was treacherous. Unwieldly branches, swamps, and unknown hostile animals thriving throughout the countryside surely made him sweat. But knowing he would have finally achieved one of his most special goals in life certainly boosted his morale. He walked diligently and gallantly through the harsh trail. Within a couple of days he reached the legendary gates of Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow was a indeed a peculiar haven compared to other lands Frederick had cartographed. The people, dressed in a unusual variations of past fashions, appeared as sleepy and dreamy as the land they lived on. There was a peaceful tranquility he never experienced before, but also a unknown sense of mystery. After asking some locals about the whereabouts of Brom Bones, he was pointed toward the Van Tassel mansion.
At the door of the estate, he was greeted by a young maid. Upon entering, he was awed by the exquisite décor of the estate. Soft, fur covered couches, polished maple desks, animal-headed trophies; all lit under a pure crystal lantern complimented the hand-crafted wallpaper and hard-wood flooring. The scent of fresh sage, basil, and other herbs lightened the house’s aroma. Everything seemed fit for a king.
After a few minutes, Brom Bones greeted him in person. Burly, and tall, Brom was as strapping as he was wealthy. The affluences he had gained he procured from Ol’ Van Tassel when marrying his daughter, Katrina. Long hours passed, and Frederick left Brom’s estate with a farewell.
His attempt to insinuate that Brom was the Headless Horseman was futile. Brom Bones was very good at keeping secrets hidden, even though he never hesitated to boast about his successes and riches. He did, however, remember of a ball Brom had invited him to to upon departure. He decided to infiltrate Brom’s personal quarters while Brom was distracted by the numerous party guests. He carefully planned his heist and slept well for the mission to come.
His heist was successful, retrieving Brom’s dark cloak, a suspiciously carved pumpkin head, and letters to Katrina about the Headless Horseman persona. The following day, he presented the evidence to the townspeople. At first, they were skeptical, but no one could argue with the evidence given. The dreary, sleepy mood of Sleepy Hollow turned angry and active as the locals bolted to the Van Tassel estate as a mob, equipped with torches and pitchforks. Needless to say, the estate was burned utterly to the ground.
However, at the sight of the estate’s collapse, a dark horseman, filled with rage and vengeance, charged at the mob. The people rapidly dispersed, leaving only the Headless Horseman and Frederick to a joust. The Headless Horseman galloped at the speed of wind, and threw his pumpkin head at Frederick with full force. Nimble and quick, he evaded the attack. Jumping off his horse, he tackled the Headless Horseman to the ground. In armlocks and half-nelsons, they wrestled violently on the estate’s dirt path. Unfortunately, Frederick’s force was not able to reckon with the Headless Horseman’s and was pinned to the ground. As the Headless Horseman was going to strike, one of his garments fell, revealing the face of Brom Bones. Not wanting Frederick living to tell the tale, Brom beat him to the dust. At the climax of the final blow, Brom Bones was interrupted, being yanked off him by a night black horse rider. Brom’s shouts for help were quickly silenced by the thunderous claps of galloping. After a short while, the galloping and shouting faded, and he was left beaten on the side of the dirt path. The townspeople returned and aided his wounds.
No one had known what happened to Brom Bones. No clues were found of Brom’s disappearance. When the people were told of this, they assumed the real Headless Horseman had punished Brom for impersonating him by taking him away. Katrina was left homeless, and husbandless, but a meek soul betrothed her, and helped restore order to Sleepy Hollow.
After finishing cartogaphing Sleepy Hollow, Frederick finally left this mysterious town. A life’s quest had finally ended, but as Frederick began his new journey home, he couldn’t help hearing the sound of galloping trailing behind him…
Tone and Mood Analysis of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Many people argue that books are always better than the movies, but is that always true? Mood, tone and attitude are major components in stories, as they determine how the reader feels. In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the mood, tone, and attitude are very distinct throughout the story. In the Disney cartoon reenactment, there is a much more cheerful and fun feel then there is in the original story. However, the mood and tone in key parts of the story remain fairly similar in both versions. There are parts of the story that retain the same mood and tone, and some parts that are different entirely.
In the opening scene of both versions, there is a difference in mood and tone. The author/ director’s goal in the first part of any story is to establish a setting and introduce characters, which both versions do very well. In the original short story the author expresses a very poetic and sincere tone, for example, Irving states “A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere” (Irving 3). The usage of words like “drowsy” and “dreamy” help convey a poetic tone throughout the section. As for the mood in this section, it is very gloomy, however, because it talks about ghosts and spirits that haunt the land. Irving says, “The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region” (Irving 3). In this sentence, Irving describes how the town is haunted by a ghost, which is very creepy, and gloomy. In contrast, the Disney film starts out with a super cheerful musical, that conveys a pleasing mood and tone. The townspeople in this part of the film seem to be super cheerful and happy, as they are all smiling, and singing (Disney). There is also a part of the scene in which Ichabod, the protagonist, is showed whistling and trotting cheerfully across the rolling green hills towards the town (Disney). All these activities are usually associated with happiness, thus conveying a cheerful/pleasing mood and tone. As for the attitude of the scene, it remains consistent from scene to scene in both the original text and the Disney adaptation. The author’s attitude towards the characters in both works, is playful and sarcastic, as the descriptions of the characters are very exaggerated, and practical jokes are played often.
In the aforementioned scene, the mood and tone are both different, but in the dance/party scene, the tone is kept more or less the same, but the mood is changed. For example, in the original story, when the eating and dancing is over, the mood goes from cheerful to being dark and gloomy quickly. At the start of the scene, the narrator describes how amazing the house of the Van Tassels is, when he says “Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves” (Irving 21). When the narrator is describing how fantastic the banquet is, the readers feel a sense of happiness as it is super easy to imagine that they are actually at the party. Soon after the party, however, people start to tell stories of ghosts and goblins. For example, Irving says, “Besides there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves” (Irving 23). Here Irving is talking about the spirits that haunt the town. This sets a dark, eerie mood, as most people find ghosts creepy and frightening. In the film, however, the mood is much different, as the mood is clearly humorous. For example, in the original short story, Brom Bones tells the tale of the Galloping Hessian in a very dramatic, suspenseful way, but in the movie, he tells it in a musical form. During the musical, Ichabod acts very comedically. For example, he dumps a mound of pepper onto a hard-boiled egg, eats it, and spits fire from his mouth (Disney). Katrina and the rest of the crowd are also finding his actions humorous as they are laughing hysterically as well (Disney). Adding these elements to the movie makes the mood very different from Irving’s original story.
There are also many parts of the movie that maintain the same mood and tone of the original, especially in one particular spot, the chase scene. In this scene, Ichabod has just left the party and is traversing the dark, gloomy woods at midnight. The author’s tone in this section is definitely gloomy, Irving states, “As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle, he thought his whistle was answered: it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches” (Irving 27). If this wasn’t enough to prove that Irving was trying to create a gloomy/spooky tone, Irving also states“all the stories of ghosts and goblins had crowding upon his recollection” (Irving 27). These two quotes both show how Irving demonstrates a dark, gloomy tone making Ichabod super fearful of his situation. It is evident that he is fearful because he is reminded of ghost and goblin stories, and feels as if he’s not alone in the forest when he thinks that something is whistling back to him. For mood in this section, Irving makes the reader feel scared and anxious. In the quotes above, the author makes the reader feel like they are in Ichabod’s shoes. He does so by going into deep detail, to help the reader create a mental image of the scene. In this case, since Ichabod is clearly scared out of his mind, so is the reader. In the film, the situation is more or less the same, the tone is still dark and gloomy because the director wanted to maintain the same sense of fear. Many elements are also added to the movie, like the cattails that sound like horse hooves, and the glowing eyes in the tree, that give the movie a dark and gloomy feel (Disney). For mood, it is consistent with the original because all the elements of the environment in which Ichabod is traveling through, create a sense of fear in the reader. Whether it be the dark twisted trees or all the creepy sounds of the woods.
The impact of mood, tone and attitude, has an adverse effect on how people feel about a story or movie. Because of this, it is important for directors to take into consideration when making a remake or adaptation of a piece of writing. In many places, the tone and mood varied between versions, but in the most important scenes, it remains similar, to keep the overall feel of the original. Overall the Disney remake did a good job of keeping mood, tone, and attitude similar in their adaptation or Irving’s original story, with a few tweaks in minor places.
- Irving, Washington. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. 1820.
- Kinney, Jack, Clyde Geronimi, and James Algar, directors. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. Walt Disney Productions, 1949.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Comparison of the American Ideal in Short Story and Film
The American ideal is a concept which was necessary in building the United States of America at the time of the American revolution. It states that if one works hard and is a good person, they will achieve success. This idea was only reinforced with the signing of the Declaration of Independence which states, “all men are created equal”. At this point in history it allowed families in the states to be motivated to provide for themselves while proving themselves as nationalists. However, even the most loyal Americans still needed an extra enticement to follow this ideal. The American Identity was this incentive. America, similar to the Old World, needed a mythology to prove that they were singular from the rest of the world so that they would act under their ideal for the long term. Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving grasps at the idea of surviving in America is tremulous and Americans must keep utterly convicted to the American ideal in order to survive. The story takes place in the small town Sleepy Hollow and tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lanky, greedy teacher who originates from Connecticut. He is seen as a consumer who rarely works and is irrelevant in the lives of those who actually work to survive. He also believes heavily in the superstitions of the elder ladies in the town. Essentially, in Irving’s works, Ichabod is seen as the enemy to the American Ideal. The fiction continues to dwell deeper into the fears of Ichabod and he is eventually chased out of town by the Headless Horseman, an old wive’s tale of a Hessian trooper who died during the American Revolution, who haunts the area surrounding Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton in his cinematic version of Legend of Sleepy Hollow uses the same plot, characters, and geography, but with a darker atmosphere. He also deviates in his view of the purpose American identity and use of Ichabod. Instead of using his film to represent the classic American ideal, he represents his own. That which represents how a person should act in a more modern sense. Unlike Irving, Burton uses Ichabod Crane (played by Johnny Depp) to represent his American ideal rather than the opposite of it. Burton’s Ichabod is a detective from New York who although bases his life off science, is still aware of the more mystical and religious. Ichabod Crane is used by Irving and Burton to demonstrate their view of the American identity. The Ichabods contrast each other through their ability to accept different opinions and realities, their gender ideologies, and in comparison of their ability to persist through tasks.
Irving and Burton’s Ichabods have different levels of ignorance that affects their ability to portray their respective ideals. Irving’s Ichabod, for example, does not know what he needs to do in order to achieve success. Due to his migration from Connecticut, where he has lived his entire life, Irving’s Ichabod does not have the required worldly experience to be able to evaluate other characters intentions and does not possess his own ability to change his own opinions. “He was a native of Connecticut… And sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters” (Irving 5). Ichabod is compared to the woodmen, who are seen as useful in the eyes of Irving and his ideal, and is named as a teacher. While the profession of teaching itself allows for worldly experience to be gained through knowledge, schoolmasters are seen in the eyes of Irving as: “mere drones” (Irving 7). This means that they don’t do much work that is seen as appropriate according to the ideals and timeline. Irving’s Ichabod also rarely lived on his own and, “boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed” (Irving 7). His reliance on others also prevents him from gaining any worldly knowledge by providing him with the comfort of the provisions of others and is never exposed to living on his one. This proves that Ichabod in the short story is not determined to learn from others. This personality does not apply well to the hardworking survivalist ideal that Irving wishes to portray. However, Burton’s Ichabod comes from New York and therefore has experience from another, more populated land. With population comes a higher density of people of different cultures and experiences which can be shared with Burton’s Ichabod. As well, Burton’s Ichabod, when compared to Irving’s Ichabod, worked a policeman and detective. This profession allows Burton’s Ichabod to be faced with more trials and tribulations than Irving’s Ichabod, making him more cultured as a person and therefore able to make decisions using different points of view. As we see as the film progresses he has had quite a horrific past. His father was a priest that condemned his mother as a witch and placed her in an iron maiden. This unfortunate story allows him to be relatable and shows how he would be able to adapt to tough situations.Although he strongly believes in the sciences, he is aware of witchcraft and is able to make decisions while being informed of this, but not controlled by it. As we see when he enters the witches cave within the woods, he puts his full trust by entering her lair as she may have some information on how to defeat the Headless Horseman. Comparing this to Irving’s Ichabod, he is entirely superstitious and controlled this unfortunate characteristic. This allows him to be exiled by his fear of the Headless Horseman, never again returning to Sleepy Hollow. Burton’s Ichabod is able to make a more cultured approach to tasks and is able to work through them with this attribute. The contrast between Irving and Burton’s Ichabod regarding their ability to make decisions and allows them to prove themselves as candidates either going against or demonstrating their respective ideals, respectively.
The diversity between the two Ichabods show regarding their ideas of women and how they desire them. Irving’s Ichabod seeks to be with them, not because he enjoys their personality, but because of what they have to offer to him. “Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer… to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round” (Irving 10). This description of Katrina Van Tassel, mentioned as the daughter of Baltus Van Tassel and the most beautiful girl in Sleepy Hollow, seems to be through the greedy eyes of Irving’s Ichabod. There is no description of her actual characteristics, only what Irving’s Ichabod sees, which is a beautiful prize for him to own. Not only does he only see her as an object, but his desires exist only because of her father’s lands. He knows that if he were to marry Katrina, he would inherit the farm and be able to sell it: “how they [Baltus Van Tassel’s lands] might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness” (Irving 12). It is this greed and desire that verifies how Irving’s Ichabod sees women, Katrina especially, as an object for him to gain personal wealth from, not to love and enjoy time with. Burton’s Ichabod desires the opposite of Irving’s. Instead of falling in love with the riches Katrina implores, he falls in love with her character. Upon meeting each other they share a kiss while Katrina is blindfolded, this instantly sparks desire between the two characters. Besides this, Burton’s Katrina shares many similarities to the film’s Ichabod’s mother. Ichabod’s mother and Burton’s Katrina are both witches and seemingly kind, caring women. When speaking of his mother Ichabod reveals these same characteristics, knowing that she possessed them even though she was condemned as a witch. The similarities between them are enough for Burton’s Ichabod to fall truly in love with Burton’s Katrina. The difference in how the Ichabods see women determines how well they demonstrate their specific ideals. Irving’s Ichabod treats them as objects and therefore with no respect, going against the morally adept aspect of his ideals. Burton’s Ichabod adores his Katrina because of her personality and characteristics following in line with a modern belief of respect and adoration between genders.
When comparing the two Ichabod’s the amount of dedication they put into their work is a sole reflection of their character and shows how they compare to their ideals. Irving’s Ichabod, although at the beginning of the story rarely works, becomes even more distracted when given the possibility of constructing a relationship with the story’s Katrina. After being introduced to Katrina and after preventing Brom, the town hero and a perfect example of Irving’s American ideals, from successfully courting her, Irving’s Ichabod successfully begins the first steps of potentially marrying the story’s Katrina. This causes Irving’s Ichabod to falter in his work and begin daydreaming. “On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched all the concerns of his literary realm” (Irving 16). Even though there is not much for him to consider, the slightest idea of having all the fortunes of the Van Tassel farm excites the greedy Ichabod enough to abandon his duty of teaching the young minds of Sleepy Hollow. On the other hand, Burton’s Ichabod demonstrates exemplary focus and is even willing to risk his own life so the task at hand may be completed. When introduced to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod is tasked with solving the mystery of multiple murders that occur on the outskirts of the town. He believes that it is simply a classic serial killer case and begins his detective work. However, the rumours of the Headless Horseman that patrols the town in seek of revenge are true. After seeing the Horseman for the first time when on the outside of town Ichabod is nearly killed. Although he is bedridden with injuries and fear, he does not give up. As soon as he can he begins to research reasons why the Hessian trooper is among the living. He faces many trials and encounters the Horseman a multitude of times, each one nearly ending in his death. Despite this, he persists in his work and succeeds, unlike Irving’s Ichabod who daydreams of the possibility that he may be handed over success. Burton’s Ichabod sends the Horseman and Burton’s Katrina’s stepmother, a witch who is responsible for summoning the Horseman in an attempt to usurp the lands and riches of the Van Tassels, back to the realms of Hell. The difference in the determination and willingness to work divides the two Ichabods and decides how they are symbols for their respective ideals. Irving’s Ichabod daydreams and does not work hard, and therefore fails at his goals by working against Irving’s American ideal. Burton’s Ichabod, on the contrary, is persistent and achieves his goals. This works in according to both Irving’s and Burton’s ideals, by working hard he becomes a better person and achieves success.
Washington Irving and Tim Burton created their own versions of Legend of Sleepy Hollow to demonstrate their ideals. Irving’s ideal states that if you work hard you will achieve success. Burton, living in a different period in time, has adapted the ideal to fit a more modern sense. That being that people should act appropriate in modern times by being respectful as well as hardworking. They both use Ichabod Crane to demonstrate how not to exist, and how to exist according to their ideals, respectively. The Ichabods establish this by showing their ability of acceptance, their gender ideologies, and their work ethic. By creating their stories of Legend of Sleepy Hollow Irving and Burton successfully established a muse for their American identity to persist through time. Similar to the stories of the old ladies in Sleepy Hollow, stories and morals only last as long as the people who believe in them repeat them to those who are not aware of them.
Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Eva Morris. Play Critique.
The play seen was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Vera Morris. The producing organization was The Medina Valley High School Theatre. The show was directed by Kylee Martin and Sherman Knetig and was seen at the Medina Valley High School auditorium. There were around a hundred people in the audience.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about the haunted town of Sleepy Hollow. Katrina is the blushing beauty of the town and has caught the eye of Brom Bones the local trouble maker. When the new schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane comes to town he takes an interest in Katrina. He believes that they would be married and he would inherit all of her family’s land so he could be rich. When Ichabod learns of the ghosts of Sleepy Hollow they start haunting him. When Brom Bones learns Ichabod is interested in Katrina he tries to run him out of town, but with no success. Ichabod proposes to Katrina but she declines his offer. Ichabod takes one more stroll past the cemetery and comes across the headless horseman. Ichabod disappears from town without a trace. Brom Bones marries Katrina and no one ever finds out what happened to Ichabod Crane.
The play was performed in a proscenium theatre. The stage was well adapted to the play. They made great use of all the curtains and all areas of the stage. The actor audience relationship was decent. The stage was appropriate. This particular play could probably be staged anywhere.
Set design was by Kaitlyn and Emalee Williams. The sets were beautiful. They had windows, doors, a well, graves, benches, podiums, and flats constantly going in and out during scene changes. Other than some flowers, the colors were pretty dull, but in this sense it’s a good thing. While the sets were beautiful, scene changes were a nightmare. It took too long to change sets out. It was to the point that the audience got bored and began to talk amongst themselves. The only clean changes were when the cemetery came into play because the actors carried headstones in as they marched toward the audience. Had the scene changes been quicker the set and scenery would have been flawless.
The lighting designer was Corey Davis. The lighting was done well. During scene changes the lighting went out, in special moments a spotlight was used, during cemetery scenes the lighting created an ominous feel. The lighting was beautiful. While color didn’t change, brightness did. The lighting was simply spectacular. During intimate moments the lighting was tight on one part of the stages. The only time the whole stage was lit up was when the whole stage was in use. It was excellent especially for a high school production.
The sound designer was Cecilia Arguelles. The music at the beginning of the show and during intermission was perfect. It was eerie instrumentals and very much had a Halloween feel which is great for the show. It cannot be stressed enough how perfect this music was. It really set the feeling for the play. There were also some great sound effects. In the cemetery there were the sounds of crows and during lighter moments there were softer bird sounds. Then when the horseman came in the noise of the horse was strong and loud. It was frightening and just perfect.
The costume designer was Trinity Duncan. The costumes fit the time period excellently which was in the 1800s. Compare to the other girls, Katrina had the brightest colors on her dress which was wonderful because she was the main girl. Also, the only two people with hats were Ichabod and Brom Bones showing similarities in the characters. The similarity obviously being their love for Katrina. Older women had high heels on while the younger girls had flats. The costumes were really great. The makeup was done by Trinity Duncan and Meredith Jones. The only characters with noticeable makeup were the phantoms, specifically the Woman in White, the Pirate, and the Indian Chief. The Woman in White was as pale as can be. The Pirate was noticeably dirty and had excellent facial hair. The Indian Chief was incredibly done. His makeup looked like it was once colorful but faded in death, It was beautifully executed.
The actors were well suited with the exception of Ichabod, played by Antonio Rodriguez. Antonio was a bit unbelievable as Ichabod. He felt very fake and seemed to break the illusion of the play. Carley Blake, who played Katrina, did excellent. She played the strong, independant woman role very nicely. The three main phantoms; the Woman in White, the Pirate, and the Indian Chief, played by Kristen Marin, Cody Goulas, and Garrett Hoak respectively were fantastic. From their every little movement to the fear inducing power they could express was just amazing. Another wonderful character was Yost played by Colton Dillard. Colton played the dumb sidekick well and made every scene he was in worth watching. All actors were understandable and very clear. Their voices all suited their characters even if their acting fell short. Antonio Rodriguez as Ichabod had one surprisingly fantastic piece in the entire play. At one point Ichabod runs off stage and through an emergency exit screaming in fear. Despite Antonio’s lackluster performance, his exit was incredible and very memorable. As for all the actors involved, there were moments when certain people on stage had to freeze and everyone was perfect. The freezing was as if the people had turned to stone. It was phenomenal.
The production as a whole was pretty impressive for a high school play. Coordination was decent with the exception of slow scene changes. There was some decent teamwork among everyone involved. This play obviously has the impact that most ghost stories have. It was done to spook and frighten people and it did a little bit. This seems to fit in with anything because it is to scare someone using the unknown and anyone can be scared by the unknown. The best part of this production was costume, sound, and lighting. For a high school play it was honestly amazing.
A Romantic View of Sleepy Hollow
Peter Lerangis’ Sleepy Hollow is a magnificent example of romantic fiction. It contains and expounds upon all of the vital elements of romanticism. Lerangis includes an exemplary romantic hero and his quest to find truth in an abstract issue. An enormous fascination with supernatural events and uneasiness towards women accompanies his romantic hero. And, Lerangis juxtaposes the harsh realities of city life to the romantic beauties of nature, defining romanticism in its entirety. The American hero is the most predominantly represented element of romanticism within the novel. Paralleling a typical romantic hero, Ichabod is full of youth and innocence. This youthful existence is apparent in Ichabod’s arachnophobia, through which he resorts back to childish panic rather than facing his fears as a mature adult. During one such instance of panic, he notices a spider in his room and “he scream[s], leaping away, as [a spider] skitter[s] under his bed” (Lerangis 110). Just as a child screams and runs when faced with fear, Ichabod resorts to his immature and primal instincts when faced by this small spider. Ichabod also portrays youth and innocence with his quest for higher truths. For instance, when he begins to contemplate the scars on his hands, he quickly ceases. He does not allow himself to ponder over their origin because “he prefer[s] solvable mysteries, and this one [makes] his brain fold darkly inward like a frightened sowbug” (14). In a matter of seconds, he goes from attempting to attain knowledge about his past to hiding from the idea as if he were a small child. However, aside from these minor flaws in his character, Ichabod is a hero in every sense of the word. When he is confronted by injustices in his society, he rebels against established authority. One such rebellion occurs when the high constable refuses to hear his voice. The high constable orders Ichabod to “stand down,” and Ichabod quickly responds, “I stand up, for sense and justice” (11). This opposition to authority demonstrates Ichabod’s heroism and genuine concern for society. Lerangis’ inclusion of the supernatural and uneasiness with women illustrate two additional characteristics that define a romantic work. The supernatural is especially predominant throughout the novel. The first recount of events Ichabod receives from the people of Sleepy Hollow is that the murder victims’ heads were “taken by the Headless Horseman” (23). This “Headless Horseman” is the ghost of “a Hessian mercenary” whom the Americans beheaded during the Revolutionary War (24). The ghost of the Horseman is even gifted with supernatural powers to control the weather. “The Horseman’s wind” and “the horseman’s storm” always foreshadow a beheading whenever they present themselves within the novel (136). The supernatural also ties into the romantic’s apprehension towards women and their symbolic need to domesticate. Ichabod incorporates the supernatural and his anxiety around women into one entity when he tells Katrina, “But perhaps there is a little bit of a witch in you…you have bewitched me” (101). This statement is simply a manifestation of Ichabod’s inability to perform in Katrina’s presence. This failure to function is apparent because “all words, all paths of thought, [lead] to Katrina;” and whenever Katrina is around, Ichabod is “speechless. She renders [him] speechless” (33; 31). Both the supernatural and his discomfort around women serve to oppose Ichabod in his quest to attain a higher truth. In addition to youthful heroism, truthful quests, the supernatural, and uneasiness towards women, Lerangis’ distrust of cities and his love of nature truly promote his romantic views. A romantic’s view of New York City is juxtaposed in the inhabitants’ view that “the world end[s] at Wall Street” and that its citizens “seldom venture north into the farmlands and swamps” (3). This idea of being constrained is the main focus of the romantic author. And, this distrust of cities does not end with its containment. New York City is further exemplified as a place where “distance murders [hold] little shock value” and “death [is] a daily event” (3). This image of a cruel and inhumane city appeals directly to the sense of pathos, invoking a concern its people and the hope for a solution. This solution is found in nature’s juxtaposition of the city. Nature symbolizes freedom, and a bird serves as the most predominant symbol of this freedom. In the novel, this bird is a cardinal, a bright red bird with the ability to fly, free from constraints and injustices. In the city, Ichabod has a cardinal as a pet, locked away in a cage. However, before leaving for Sleepy Hollow, he releases the bird and “watch[es] as its fiery red plumage [is] consumed in the rays of the rising sun” (14). This symbolizes both Ichabod’s release from the city’s cage and the beginning of a new chapter in his life. This cardinal appears later in the novel when Katrina tells Ichabod that she “would love to have a tame one, but wouldn’t have the heart to cage him” (60). This announcement reiterates the idea that nature is free from all constraints and should not be caged for a mere moment’s enjoyment. However, the cardinal’s symbolic freedom is not everlasting. As Ichabod is talking to the “Witch of the Western Woods,” she opens her fist and “a dead bird spill[s] out-a cardinal” (31; 73). Ichabod responds to this annihilation of freedom by “stepp[ing] back in horror” (73). It is this distrust of civilization and love of nature that leads Ichabod to Sleepy Hollow; and in the end, it is nature that triumphs over the evils of the city with its “snow, falling gently” and “covering [the city’s] multitude of sins” (149).
Sleepy Hollow: Remnants of Times Not So Far Past
In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the theme of haunting is dominant; the haunting itself is purely a human creation and is created solely to meet human needs. Though at times it can seem quite realistic due to emotions evoked through Irving’s masterful use of imagery, it is at all times quite fictional, even to the narrator. Haunting is continuously associated with stretches of the imagination, and also mostly with live or animate things: trees, animals, sounds escaping from the wilderness. The idea of haunting, which leads to stories told by the Sleepy Hollow community, begins when there are no answers to curious happenings, or when the given answers are not satisfactory, or even mundane. The idea is then perpetuated when citizens begin to elaborate and incite new notions of ghosts and goblins from the original stories. The ‘haunting’ begins, however, with supernatural explanations for simple events in the past, such as Andre’s capture during the war; though this is a simple and not uncommon event in wartime, Sleepy Hollow is clutching to the past through vivid story telling. The fact that it is storytelling is subtly clear.One of the key ways that the reader can tell that the haunting is fictitious–or at the very least extremely questionable–is through the narrator’s word choice. Though the story is supposed to be an historical account of events that actually occurred in Sleepy Hollow, he often questions the veracity of the haunting. Even at the climactic point in which Ichabod faces the Headless Horseman, the narrator writes that Ichabod “beheld” (1082) the horseman’s disfigured shape, and that it “appeared” (1083) massive in the darkness. He never uses concrete verbs, such as ‘was,’ because it is not certain that what Ichabod ascertains is truly what is present. He carefully chooses his diction to simultaneously show what Ichabod is seeing as well as the fact that only he is seeing it–it is well possible that it does not exist. He does this strikingly well in the sentence, “Ichabod was horror struck, on perceiving that he was headless” (1083). There is no doubt that the protagonist believes completely in what he is seeing, but the use of the word ‘perception’ is key; it throws doubt upon the believability of Ichabod’s sense of reality.This false sense of haunting that is seen so clearly through Ichabod’s eyes manifests itself in particular places within the text. There are various moments in which nature gives him the feeling of being haunted, though it is harmless.Then, as he wended his way, by swamp and stream andawful woodland, . . .every sound of nature, at that witchinghour, fluttered his excited imagination: the moan of thewhip-or-will from the hill side; the boading cry of the treetoad; . . .the dreary hooting of the screech owl. . . (1064)The wilderness scares him, haunts him in a sense. Through the present nature–the shadows cast by trees, the sounds of forest animals–Ichabod, like all the other Sleepy Hollow residents, fears the past. It is the ‘witching hour’ merely because it is dark outside, and the sounds frighten him merely because he has an ‘excited imagination,’ and for no real substantial reason. Like the tree and stream that Andre is said to haunt, there is nothing that is really to be feared–merely shadows and cricket chirps, wind rustling leaves. The fear, however, is a result of the stories that are told, not necessarily of the actual surroundings. That Andre was captured is not a scary story, but that his spirit remains to haunt can be construed as frightening; it is purely imagination, though, that causes these stories to be told in the first place.The unfaithfulness of such stories is revealed toward the end of the tale. The reader is told that Ichabod is indeed alive and well following his supposed abduction from Sleepy Hollow by the Headless Horseman. The residents of the town also come into this knowledge by a farmer that has seen him firsthand. However, “the old country wives… maintain to this day, that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means… the schoolhouse… was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue” (1086). The Dutch wives, who are the perpetuators of the haunting stories throughout the text, persist in creating stories that they know to be false. They continually take what little past they have, and turn it into stories so that it is not lost, so that there is a history upon which they can build their present. But because they have so little past, they need to use the present to create a past–they use what happens to make a new history, a new past, building upon what they have already created.Ichabod is a prime example of this practice. He is clearly still alive, but he is in the history of Sleepy Hollow because he is no longer bodily present. The true reason for his disappearance is not satisfactory and is not exciting enough material with which to make a history, so the Dutch wives concoct their own history, and it becomes truth. Everyone who enters Sleepy Hollow becomes subject to their whimsical tales, and falls into their belief system, no matter “however wide awake they may have been before they entered the sleepy region” (1060). They cannot be held at fault, however. There is simply so little past that they need to preserve what they have through what is now present, what is now alive. This is shown through the abundance of live and animated haunting imagery. The haunting comes solely from within them, and only manifests itself in these external things. For these people that lack a past, fictitious events become legend, and then those legends become history.
Ichabod Crane: A Farcical Character, and a Political Allegory
Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a story beloved my many, and Ichabod Crane is a highly debated character. Some believe he is merely a man that helped to tell the tale of the legendary Headless Horseman, and others see him as an antihero that represents the human nature. This strange character is both those things, but one thing stands above the rest when analyzing such a remarkable schoolteacher. Ichabod Crane is a farce character that loosely mimics the British rule over America and its ultimate demise. He is an embodiment of the way Americans viewed the British after the Revolution with his lofty character, insatiable appetite, and severe cowardice. He may seem the hero, but, in reality, he is simply a mockery.
Ichabod Crane is a strange name in and of itself, but Ichabod’s appearance and personality help form the character that fits the name. He does not look like a normal hero; he looks famished, and utterly ugly, a prime example of a farce character. He is described as having a lanky body, small head, and big ears and feet. Irving also states that “one might have mistaken him for… some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield” (758). When Ichabod is riding the horse, Gunpowder, the narrator cannot help but mention the hilarity of viewing this scene. “…His sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers… the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings…” (767). As for Ichabod’s personality, he is ludicrous and a mockery of what is real in his bravado and charm. He woos many women, charming them with his intelligence and professed talents such as singing and dancing, though he appears to be overexaggerated at both. Irving says that he is “a man of some importance in the female circles… a kind of idle gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments…” (760). However, his love for himself shines above the favor the ladies take in him. When the narrator describes Ichabod’s singing voice, he does not fail to include that “It was a matter of no little vanity to him… to take his station in front of the church gallery…where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson” (759). Yet, his singing is a “nasal melody” to the country folk and, after Ichabod leaves Sleepy Hollow, “peculiar quavers [can] still… be heard… which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane.” (760). As for his dancing, “Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle, and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, clattering about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person” (769). St. Vitus’ dance is not a pretty one, and for Ichabod to be compared to the saint shows how his dancing was more humorous than beautiful.
Ichabod is not only a strange character, but he also has a strange appetite to match. He seems to wish to devour the entire countryside, and this may be an allusion to the way the British overruled America before the Revolution. Ichabod begins by simply enjoying the delicious food he is given by the country folk he stays with. “…On holiday afternoons [he] would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard” (759). Then his appetite begins to turn to a ravenous allusion. “He was a huge feeder, and though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda.” (759). Soon, his desire to devour turns to a woman and her inheritance. When he looks upon Katrina, the narrator states, “…it is not to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his eyes” (761). Ichabod sees her more as a sweet cake rather than a human, and his desire grows when he sees the wealth flowing from the place she lives. “The pedagogue’s mouth watered, as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare.” The narrator then details the way Ichabod sees every animal as some form of holiday dish. His mind doesn’t stop at the animals, but he continues, observing the house and land itself. “…his imagination expanded with the idea, how [the land] might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts…” (762). His idea of a good life is to marry Katrina and sell everything she owns to move out West. He hungers for more and more, his insatiable desire a comical comparison to the way the British tried to keep America under their rule. Yet, his appetite is somewhat overwhelming, proving how the Americans felt under the rule of Great Britain.
Finally, Ichabod is a coward that runs away from his home in Sleepy Hollow back to Connecticut where he grew up. He runs away due to the fright he receives from the Headless Horseman, but he also runs due to the unspoken conversation he had with Katrina on the night of the party. Irving states, “Something, however… must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chop-fallen” (771). On his trek homeward, he is dejected, and possibly thinking about heading back to Connecticut before the Headless Horseman shows up. Ichabod is also hilariously superstitious, and he “was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s history of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed” (760). He revels in the tales of witchcraft and horror. He finds something intoxicating in stories of the unknown world, yet he is appalled when he walks home alone at night, startled by his own footsteps. Irving says that “his appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary” (760) and that “no tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow” (760) yet, when he was out and about at night and saw fireflies and other nocturnal creatures, “The poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token” (760). Because Ichabod is a known superstitious coward, it is inferred that Brom, Ichabod’s rival, poses as the Headless Horseman. Ichabod could have rationalized that this was true, but, instead, he runs and gets knocked off his horse with a flying pumpkin. The rider is described as “gigantic in height and muffled in a cloak” (773) and Ichabod could have easily seen that this was a trick. This can be compared to the Siege of Yorktown where the British were tricked into thinning their troops and were captured, forced into a surrender to end the Revolutionary War. Ichabod runs back to his home like the British retreat to Great Britain, and Brom is safe to marry Katrina like the Americans were safe to form their own government and be a free country.
Once observed in a way that reflects the British, Ichabod Crane has comical similarities that help to open the story up to a broader perspective. Irving may or may not have based this character loosely off the British rule and fall in America, but Ichabod produces a hilarious likeness to how the Americans saw the British during the time the story was published. His character in general shows an antihero likeness, and his desire to devour everything in sight produces a mockery of how the British monarchy hungered for the American people and countryside. His cowardice, also, represented a jesting form of how the British finally retreated and gave up, going back to where they belonged.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Postcolonialism
Terry W. Thompson’s article “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” was published in Midwest Quarterly in 2013. In this article, Thompson explores the political climate in Washington Irving’s famed short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and evaluates the character Ichabod Crane through a postcolonial lens. Thompson contends that in addition to conventional interpretations of the work, Irving’s short story may be read as an expression of the historical “cultural tension” between Dutch and English settlers in early American society (136). While Irving’s work is generally read as an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban, Thompson argues that there is a larger theme of clashing cultures at the core of these interpretations. In his article, Thompson asserts that Ichabod Crane may be viewed as the embodiment of English colonialism.
In support of his argument, Thompson highlights the various characteristics that make Ichabod stand out as an example of English colonialism. As a man of English heritage from Connecticut, Ichabod is an outsider and minority in the predominantly Dutch area of Sleepy Hollow. Although one might assume that Ichabod’s position as an outsider and minority would force him into the Dutch way of life, that is not the case. Thompson, asserting that Ichabod’s way of thought perpetuates the English colonial mindset, writes, “When the new schoolteacher […] ambles into Sleepy Hollow, he immediately—and intentionally—disrupts a Dutch place with his English worldview and thereby becomes a serious threat to two centuries of stability and homogeneity” (137-138). This interpretation of Ichabod is supported by historical evidence; Indeed, English colonists forcefully sought new territory during the colonization of America with a disregard for previous settlements and existing customs. There is a history of “violence” and “hostility” between the Dutch and English settlers as the English forged their way into new territories, bringing their customs with them (136). Another element of Ichabod’s character that lends itself to Thompson’s interpretation is the fact that Ichabod is a school teacher. Thompson contends that this is an example of the way in which English colonists would forcefully assimilate minority cultures into the English idea of civilized society.
Contrasted against the rural Dutch, Thompson argues that the English Ichabod seems to embody the “expansionist attitude” that was popular among the English colonists (137). Thompson describes the English as being “ruthless purveyors of commerce, industry, development, and growth,” and he parallels this presentation of the English with Ichabod’s actions and attitudes in the work (137). Despite being an outsider, Ichabod makes himself feel quite at home in Sleepy Hollow. Seeking room and board with various families in town, Ichabod may aptly be labeled as an entitled individual. Thompson, delving further into the notion of Ichabod’s sense of entitlement, notes the various ways in which Irving characterizes Ichabod’s hunger. In Irving’s work, Ichabod’s appetite is compared to that of a snake and a locust, and Thompson asserts that this portrayal mimics the insatiable desire that the English colonists possessed regarding expansion. Like a snake that devours its food whole, the English colonists were devouring American land, resources, and minority cultures and customs. Like the locusts that come in swarms, bringing chaos and destruction, the English colonists arrived in America and forcefully placed their ways of life and thought on other cultures and upturned any existing concepts of normalcy.
Continuing his argument that Ichabod embodies English colonialism, Thompson explores the role of Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod’s attitude toward her in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” He proposes that Katrina serves as a “Pocahontas figure” who would permit “[Ichabod’s] entry into the local hierarchy of power” (144). It is not necessarily the affection of Katrina that Ichabod desires; rather, when thinking about Katrina, he focuses on her material wealth, what he would do with it, and how he could gain from it. While he is impressed by Katrina’s beauty, he is more impressed by her father’s land and home. Thompson, explaining the notion of Katrina’s position as a Pocahontas figure, writes,
[Ichabod’s] covert enterprise is to liquidate Katrina’s entire estate and turn the vast acreage that has been Dutch land for almost two centuries into hard cash. […] Ichabod plans, as another Englishman did many generations before, to remove his choses Pocahontas from her ancestral lands. […] In essence, like the teenaged Powhatan girl who was taken away to live in an unfamiliar place far from her own people and culture, Katrina Van Tassel, a Rubenesque avatar of all things Dutch, will be spirited away to a foreign landscape, a lovely trophy taken from an indigenous and therefore inferior race. (145)
The sense of entitlement that Ichabod feels about Katrina, accompanied with his insincere, manipulative, and selfish nature, reflects an English colonial ideology. Ichabod only wants Katrina’s hand in marriage so that he can gain something of monetary or societal value.
If Katrina Van Tassel is the Pocahontas figure, what does that make Brom Van Brunt? How are readers to interpret this character who makes a fool of Ichabod? If, following Thompson’s interpretation, Ichabod is the embodiment of English colonialism, why is he defeated? Generally speaking, the English colonists won, and their customs became the dominant customs of wherever they decided to colonize. Therefore, it could be argued that there is a flaw in Thompson’s argument. Thompson, however, explains Ichabod’s defeat as a representation of the Dutch resistance to cultural assimilation. According to Thompson, Brom epitomizes the Dutch way of life. Because Ichabod is defeated by Brom, Irving’s story can be viewed as a criticism of English colonialism. Although Ichabod is the protagonist of the work, Irving merely uses his character to personify and critique colonialism.
The overall argument of Thompson’s article deserves notice. Using support from the text and the history of English colonialism, Thompson effectively interprets “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as an expression of the tense underlying cultural dynamic that pervaded the colonial period of America. Thompson’s interpretation of the work serves to add depth to other, more conventional, interpretations of the work. The notion that Irving’s short story is an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban can be explained more thoroughly through the postcolonial lens. Utilizing the information from Thompson’s article, readers may understand that the past and the rural of these interpretations are symbols of minority groups and their assimilation into the English idea of society, and the urban and the future of these interpretations are symbols of English colonialism and its tendency to upturn and replace preexisting customs. Thompson adds another layer to the character of Ichabod Crane that aids in understanding why Irving depicts him in the somewhat peculiar manner that he does. Ichabod’s physical appearance, attitude of entitlement, and the overall odd outcome for his character in the work can be explained by Thompson’s explanation of his character’s position as the embodiment of English colonialism.
In conclusion, Thompson’s “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” effectively interprets Irving’s short story as a criticism of English colonialism. In recognition of the underlying cultural tension in early American society, Thompson has an argument that is both compelling and credible. The article highlights the various ways in which Irving depicts the social and political atmospheres of the colonial period in America in his work, and in doing so, Thompson allows for a more in-depth evaluation of the short story’s meaning and analysis of Ichabod Crane. Though the total villainization of Ichabod may not have been what Irving intended, Thompson’s claims shed a useful and informative light on Irving’s work.
Thompson, Terry W. “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’” Midwest Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 2, Winter 2013, pp. 136-148. EBSCOhost, dsc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=85110804&site=eds-live&scope=site.