Monday, November 2, 2009

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving

Of course, I enjoyed this classic tale. I highly suggest that if you have not read it - pick it up! You will finish it in one sitting.

It is clear why this story has survived the test of time. Irving describes Tarry Town - otherwise
know as Sleepy Hollow - in a very surreal way. "A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land". The reader gets a sense that this is a place where mysterious things can happen.

The town is riddled with tales and ghost stories, the most famous of which is the Headless Horseman. This appeals to the reader right a
way. Being from a small town myself, it seems that (especially among children) there are always tales of haunted places or apparitions. This is something that the reader can relate to right from the start.

The story is c
entered around the schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane. I love the description of this man! I can picture him so well - tall, long arms, long fingers, long nose, almost birdlike. I have seen people who look like this and I'm sure Irving meant for Ichabod to have a certain awkwardness to him. It is so comical to me that Ichabod is thin as a rail, yet he loves to eat. (Why can't I be more like Ichabod?!)

Ichabod is painted as an outsider from the start - he does not really seem to belong in Sleepy Hollow. He does not have a home of his own, rather he travels between the homes of his studen
ts. Speaking from the point of view of a teacher - I would not like this AT ALL! However, Ichabod seems to like it just fine, especially when he's staying in the house of a beautiful lady, or a good cook. It is during the evenings at these houses where Ichabod's head is filled with ghost stories and haunted tales.

Ichabod stri
kes me as the kind of man who is used to letting his imagination run away with him a little bit. There are descriptions of him walking after these evenings of storytelling and getting more than a little "freaked out" on in his travels. Maybe it is the mist surrounding Sleepy Hollow? Or maybe it's the the overactive mind of Ichabod?

Once again - here is a place where the reader can relate. Who has not been walking, or d
riving, and let their imagination get away from them? It has happened to me many times... looking back I feel foolish, but at the time I was really scared!

The story culminates with Ichabod attending a party at the Van Tassel home. Ichabod has had his eye on the lovely Katrina Van Tassel, and apparently he is not the only man who feels this way, for he meets
Brom Bones that evening. After the party, Irving eludes to Ichabod getting turned down in regards to his feelings toward Katrina. It is on his ride home where he supposedly meets up with the Headless Horseman.

When reading the account of Ichabod being pursued, you would have to be made of solid rock not to have your heart rate elevate more than slightly. Irving does a fantastic job of describing Ichabod's pursuer gaining on him, feeling his "hot breath" behind him. Irving has stuffed these pages full of language which drips with something supernatural.

Ichabod never fully sees what is chasing him, and Ichabod is never heard from again.

So this leav
es the reader to decide.

Did Ichabod fall victim to the Hea
dless Horseman? Did our lanky, over imaginative Ichabod get himself worked up into a panic over nothing? Was it Brom Bones from the party antagonizing Ichabod?

So reader - what do you think?

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