The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Summary and Analysis

Topics: Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Pages: 28 (11478 words) Published: January 22, 2013
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Summary and Analysis

Major Themes

Veracity in Storytelling
Veracity in storytelling is a defining theme of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The story is distantly removed from the reader—Crayon has found the story in Diedrich Knickerbocker’s papers, who is dead, and who at the end of the story writes that he heard it from an old gentleman, who claimed to not have even believed half of it himself, ultimately getting much of the story from primary or even other secondary sources. Thus, even where the story is told with confidence, the narrator has given us reasons to doubt evrything. We become critical readers, unlike Crane, who believes the ghost stories he reads. The narrator also admits to complete ignorance of one of the defining moments of the story—Katrina’s imagined rejection of Ichabod—as well as to its ending. He does, however, relay a scene which he can only have knowledge of if Crane (or the horseman) has told his story. There were no other witnesses. Given the narrative frame of the tale, we know that the narrator is not omniscient but has had to rely on others' tales. Yet, the narrator has not demonstrated that factuality is the point. It is likely that the point of telling the story, just as it has been passed along from one person to another, is in the telling, the enjoyment of the tale. On the one hand, we are critical readers, because otherwise we would not figure out who is playing the role of the horseman. On the other hand, we shouldn't act like a boring schoolmaster but like a true listener, enjoying the tale. Crayon almost seems to be challenging the reader to enjoy the story even though he doubts most of it, for in the postscript to the story, in which we find out that the previous narrator does not even believe it, the one man who does not enjoy hearing the story says that the reason he cannot enjoy it is that he does not believe it. This man is presented negatively as some kind of dour doubter, however, thus emphasizing the fact that one is better off suspending disbelief, at least enough to enjoy the tale as it is presented. This is a lesson for some literary critics and professors who lose the joy of reading in the course of minute interpretation. The Power of Imagination

The power of imagination is very prominent in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and throughout Crayon’s collection as a whole. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Ichabod is a rather comedic and foolish protagonist. This comes, largely, from the strength of his imagination, and this leads to his downfall. Ichabod’s primary enjoyment is reading stories about ghosts, demons, and witches, or hearing stories about the same; yet, because his imagination is so powerful, he pays for this dearly, having great frights every time he walks or rides home after dark. The littlest things frighten him, and he can convince himself that almost anything is supernatural. Ichabod’s imagination thus makes his life more difficult, but it does not seem to alter his behavior, since his imagination leads him to think the supernatural things are real. He continues to read these stories, and he continues to walk home after dark. His imagination in its fantasizing function does, however, seriously affect his life in that it reinforces his impotence. Ichabod’s imagination is so powerful that he believes himself essentially already the owner of the Van Tassel farm. Because he gets so much joy out of this fantasy, he forgets that he has to put forth an effort to make it into a reality, so he does not. Ichabod also tries to woo Katrina, imagining his future life with her. But he does not take Brom seriously enough as a rival, nor does he do anything to prove that he could be a husband who would offer anything to Katrina besides singing lessons. Thus Ichabod’s powerful imagination renders him impotent in reality. Lack of Class Structure in America

The theme of lack of class structure in America is most clear when reading “The Legend...
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