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The Role of Setting in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

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Determining the setting, choices, actions, and decisions of the characters in a story can tell just how significant each character’s role is within that story, and sets the tone for which direction the story takes. The setting of Sleepy Hollow, New York, is important because one of the story’s important themes is the conflict between ‘country’ people and ‘city’ people. The original habitants of the TarryTown area were Dutch, and they are seen as strong, hearty farm people. Abraham ‘Brom Bones’ Brunt and the Van Tassels are great examples of these people. Comparatively, Ichabod Crane is an outsider from Connecticut. He is a Yankee – a city man with English roots. These two very different social backgrounds helps to set the tone for the conflicts that will arise throughout the story.

The setting for this story, Sleepy Hollow, is a secluded and really tiny valley off of the Tarry city. It is a town that is quite superstitious, and seems to be haunted by the ghost of a headless horse-rider. This additionally helps set the mood for the spooky and comic events of the ending. Using the small village feel of a place like Tarrytown also helped the author to use the idea of supernatural throughout the story. Irving also uses the description “A pleasing land of drowsy head it was.” The people of the town were lazy and a bit absent-minded. If it were a town, or maybe a bigger city, Brom Bones’s Headless Horseman trick wouldn’t have worked against Ichabod Crane. Also, at the Van Tassels’s party earlier, Brom Bones and the alternative Dutch farmers told recent ghost stories to help lay the groundwork to scare Ichabod Crane. This worked because Crane is an outsider, whereas the Dutch farmers are the original settlers of Sleepy Hollow. Brom Bones knows the land and the history behind it, but Crane does not. In the end, when Brom Bones disguises himself as the Headless Horseman of legend (said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper from the Revolutionary War), he chases Ichabod Crane all the way to the Old Dutch Burying Ground, a church and cemetery yard in Sleepy Hollow. In this Dutch colonial setting, the ‘country’ man essentially wins over the ‘city’ man.

Washington Irving’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ story would not be as it is now without its calm quiet tranquil setting off the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. The Headless Horseman runs Ichabod Crane out of the isolated quiet town of Sleepy Hollow.

There are more important conflicts in ‘the legend of sleepy hallow ‘ but the obvious external struggle is between Ichabod Crane and Bram Bones, who want the same girl, Katrina Van Tassel. It’s fair to say that the setting for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a big role in how the conflicts between characters flourish within the story. One can conclude that the setting was a determining factor for the actions, choices, and the decisions of the characters within the story. 

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The Role Of Setting In The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow By Washington Irving. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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