Diabolism and Variation in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Diabolismand Variation in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Writtenby Washington Irving, “Sleepy Hollow”offersa tentative and mystical thriller in which Ichabod and Brunt rivalryfor the hand of Katrina plays out. Set in a remote place in 1970 inthe countryside around Tarry Town, in a sheltered gorge called SleepyHollow, the narrative is about the consequences of obsessions. Thestory opens with a splendid and suggestive description of the plush,fascinating Hudson valley of Sleepy Hollow. The area of Sleepy Hollowis notorious for its ghosts and the poignant situations that pervadethe imaginations of its habitats and guests. Stories of bewitchmentare in every person’s tongue with the most infamous threat beingthe Headless Horseman, who canters out to the passage of the combatwhere he had his head blown away by a stray grapeshot nightly inquest of his head. Irving narrates the account of Ichabod Crane, asinewy, gangly and exceedingly delusory schoolteacher who contendswith Abraham Van Brunt for the affection of Katrina Van Tassel, “an18-year-old daughter of a wealthy farmer.” On one equablenightfall, Ichabod sets out to attend a harvest party at Hassel’shomestead where he dances and partakes in the feast, but his trueintention is to propose to Katrina. However, he fails in his proposaland rides home dejected and crestfallen. On his way, his lively fancyis distended by the ghost stories told at the harvest party and uponpassing a lightning-stricken tree, he encounters a cloaked riderwhose head is in his saddle rather than his shoulder. Ichabod attemptto run away, but the ghoul hurls his severed head into Ichabod’sface and the next morning he has inexplicably vanished town, leavingBrunt to marry Katrina. In this regards, the discourse proffers acritical assessment of Sleepy Hollow through the subjects ofdiabolism, variations and mystery to validate its importance tocritical thinking.

Thestory is an appealing and pleasant narrative full of good humor, butit encompasses serious and profound social insinuations. The storyquestions whether transformation and advancement are better thanorder and stability by placing significance on the old principles ofthe destroyers. In addition, Irving supports Katrina and Brunt, whoconquests Ichabod by playing on his illogical fears. In fact, thestory promotes a great deal of fear not only to the reader but alsothe characters especially Ichabod. Thinking about the title and thecontent of the story, readers get shivers and ponder of the infamousspecter, “The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchantedregion, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of theair, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head,”(Irving 7). This mythological phantom grants the story thedesignation of a ghost narrative thus, the story has illustrationsof superstition, supernatural, evil, reality, good, and opposingforces. As asserted earlier, the story provides a legendary rivalrybetween Brunt and Ichabod however, the rivalry is mostly about avictor and a victim rather than between reality and supernatural. Thestory offers some subtle variations on the livelihood of youngAmericans and between stability and change. The gorge of the Hollowitself embodies the features of the fresh, novel land of America, aserene and stunning place as alleged by settlers. In fact, Irvingdescribes the glen as

“Fromthe listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of itsinhabitants, who are descendants of the original Dutch settlers, thissequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW,and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout allthe neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hangover the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere,” (6)

Sucha description helps to illustrate the beauty of the glen as well asoffer a variation between stability and change. In fact, the storyprogresses the variation by narrating the allegory of Ichabod.Ichabod’s personality presents the American state, but it presentsa description of an underdog (Hoffman 426). Irving terms Ichabod as,“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, longarms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feetthat might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most looselyhung together,” (9). However, he is intelligent, optimistic, andpliable, characters that reflect the qualities of the newly nation ofAmerica. Ichabod believes that Katrina will accept his hand, but hissuperstitious nature, ghostly fears, and materialistic naturepresents his victim and underdog disposition. In addition, hisdelusory nature implies that he is immature and childish. Byillustrating this superstitious nature, Irving shows the lack ofmaturity in the new state of America. In fact, Hoffman supports thisassertion by suggesting that America saw herself as a young state ofa fresh and innocent nature (428). On the other hand, Bruntrepresents the strength of Britain, as he is formidable and burley.Irving labels him as, “He was famed for great knowledge and skillin horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar…, wasthe umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side, and givinghis decisions with an air and tone admitting of no gainsay orappeal,” (18). This strength and skill make him the victorespecially when he persecutes Ichabod and defeats him to the hand ofKatrina.

Thestory symbolizes the utilization of formulaic occult deception,tragedy, manipulation, conditioning, and Apocalypse Conspiracies, andreferences to the Apocalypse. The story provides some scares as itcreates an eccentric personality of the Horseman with hisintelligence of the art of modern artillery. One significant aspectto note is that the Horseman is headless, and he crisscrosses thecommunity slaying people and searching for his head. This supportsto appraise the story regarding a metaphor that fuses weaponry,astuteness, and conspiracies to offer ecstasy to the readers(Rubin-Dorsky400).In this regards, the utilization of high concepts like treacheriesand superstition proffers the narrative an edge on the representationof a drama tale that reflects the comportment of an inundatedcommunity. The story exemplifies the dark side of society cynicismthrough the creation of the superstitious nature of Ichabod and thestories narrated across the society. In addition, the story usesallegory allusions with intrigues to establish how people usedisparagement and fear to scare other people. In fact, by usingconcession and societal enthusiasm, the narrative replicates theheartless admonition that people have concerning human life.

Althoughthe story presents stories of the ghosts, it also shows some gallantinstances and proffer catastrophe to make a point about people’slives. The representation of Ichabod and the Horseman illustratesthis catastrophe as well as shows the evil that exists today. Infact, Rubin-Dorskyasserts that people rave in irrational and evil thoughts, butultimately their end does not influence the fabric of the realism(395). In addition, the story succeeds in presenting the opposingforces, which helps readers to note the vulnerability of their lives.Although Ichabod is the underdog in the story and a victim, he is noteventually the failure as all he has lost is a girl and self-worthdespite the loss, he has a sense of hope and optimism left in him.


Hoffman,Daniel G. &quotIrving`s Use of American Folklore in&quot The Legendof Sleepy Hollow&quot.&quot&nbspPublicationsof the Modern Language Association of America&nbsp(1953):425-435. Print.

Irving,Washington. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”&nbspSketchBook.New York, 2007. 1-41. Print.

Rubin-Dorsky,Jeffrey. &quotThe Value of Storytelling:&quot Rip Van Winkle&quotand&quot The Legend of Sleepy Hollow&quot in the Context of&quotThe Sketch Book&quot.&quot&nbspModernphilology&nbsp(1985):393-406. Print.

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