Imagine the modern, traditional fairy tale, in which the story begins with “once upon a time,” and ends with “happily ever after.” In Washington Irving’s, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” set in post-American Revolutionary war New York, the conventions of present-day fairy tales are broken. With deep roots in historical European folklore, the story is a gothic tale of romance, fantasy and ironic humor, offering no definitive end. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving uses an unreliable narrator, an extremely complex style of writing, and a dream-like tone, to convey themes of warfare, materialism, and the supernatural, as well as the story’s overall sense of ambiguity and perplexity.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” falls victim to a number of unreliable narrators, causing the reader to doubt the story’s authenticity. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is first introduced by its title, seemingly clear and straightforward, but in fact, the title harbors more depth than meets the eye. By referring to this story as a “legend,” Irving adds a mysterious connotation to the title, and also declares that the story is a myth. This simple addition to the title alters the narrative’s framework. The reader is encouraged to temporarily excuse the questionable integrity of the story, whose given title sets the tone for the rest of the story. Irving then informs the reader that the story was “found among the Papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker,” (25) signifying that Knickerbocker is the narrator. “Though many years have elapsed since I trod the shades of Sleepy Hollow...” (27). The tale of Ichabod Crane is preceded by Knickerbocker ‘s vague recollection of his experience in Sleepy Hollow, told from a first-person point of view. Knickerbocker then begins the tale of Ichabod Crane, switching to a third-objective point of view. “In this place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American History, that is to say, some thirty years since...” (27). Diedrich...
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