The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
A Romantic View of Sleepy Hollow
Peter Lerangis’ Sleepy Hollow is a magnificent example of romantic fiction. It contains and expounds upon all of the vital elements of romanticism. Lerangis includes an exemplary romantic hero and his quest to find truth in an abstract issue. An enormous fascination with supernatural events and uneasiness towards women accompanies his romantic hero. And, Lerangis juxtaposes the harsh realities of city life to the romantic beauties of nature, defining romanticism in its entirety. The American hero is the most predominantly represented element of romanticism within the novel. Paralleling a typical romantic hero, Ichabod is full of youth and innocence. This youthful existence is apparent in Ichabod’s arachnophobia, through which he resorts back to childish panic rather than facing his fears as a mature adult. During one such instance of panic, he notices a spider in his room and “he scream[s], leaping away, as [a spider] skitter[s] under his bed” (Lerangis 110). Just as a child screams and runs when faced with fear, Ichabod resorts to his immature and primal instincts when faced by this small spider. Ichabod also portrays youth and innocence with his quest for higher truths. For instance, when he begins to contemplate the scars on his hands, he quickly ceases. He does not allow himself to ponder over their origin because “he prefer[s] solvable mysteries, and this one [makes] his brain fold darkly inward like a frightened sowbug” (14). In a matter of seconds, he goes from attempting to attain knowledge about his past to hiding from the idea as if he were a small child. However, aside from these minor flaws in his character, Ichabod is a hero in every sense of the word. When he is confronted by injustices in his society, he rebels against established authority. One such rebellion occurs when the high constable refuses to hear his voice. The high constable orders Ichabod to “stand down,” and Ichabod quickly responds, “I stand up, for sense and justice” (11). This opposition to authority demonstrates Ichabod’s heroism and genuine concern for society. Lerangis’ inclusion of the supernatural and uneasiness with women illustrate two additional characteristics that define a romantic work. The supernatural is especially predominant throughout the novel. The first recount of events Ichabod receives from the people of Sleepy Hollow is that the murder victims’ heads were “taken by the Headless Horseman” (23). This “Headless Horseman” is the ghost of “a Hessian mercenary” whom the Americans beheaded during the Revolutionary War (24). The ghost of the Horseman is even gifted with supernatural powers to control the weather. “The Horseman’s wind” and “the horseman’s storm” always foreshadow a beheading whenever they present themselves within the novel (136). The supernatural also ties into the romantic’s apprehension towards women and their symbolic need to domesticate. Ichabod incorporates the supernatural and his anxiety around women into one entity when he tells Katrina, “But perhaps there is a little bit of a witch in you…you have bewitched me” (101). This statement is simply a manifestation of Ichabod’s inability to perform in Katrina’s presence. This failure to function is apparent because “all words, all paths of thought, [lead] to Katrina;” and whenever Katrina is around, Ichabod is “speechless. She renders [him] speechless” (33; 31). Both the supernatural and his discomfort around women serve to oppose Ichabod in his quest to attain a higher truth. In addition to youthful heroism, truthful quests, the supernatural, and uneasiness towards women, Lerangis’ distrust of cities and his love of nature truly promote his romantic views. A romantic’s view of New York City is juxtaposed in the inhabitants’ view that “the world end[s] at Wall Street” and that its citizens “seldom venture north into the farmlands and swamps” (3). This idea of being constrained is the main focus of the romantic author. And, this distrust of cities does not end with its containment. New York City is further exemplified as a place where “distance murders [hold] little shock value” and “death [is] a daily event” (3). This image of a cruel and inhumane city appeals directly to the sense of pathos, invoking a concern its people and the hope for a solution. This solution is found in nature’s juxtaposition of the city. Nature symbolizes freedom, and a bird serves as the most predominant symbol of this freedom. In the novel, this bird is a cardinal, a bright red bird with the ability to fly, free from constraints and injustices. In the city, Ichabod has a cardinal as a pet, locked away in a cage. However, before leaving for Sleepy Hollow, he releases the bird and “watch[es] as its fiery red plumage [is] consumed in the rays of the rising sun” (14). This symbolizes both Ichabod’s release from the city’s cage and the beginning of a new chapter in his life. This cardinal appears later in the novel when Katrina tells Ichabod that she “would love to have a tame one, but wouldn’t have the heart to cage him” (60). This announcement reiterates the idea that nature is free from all constraints and should not be caged for a mere moment’s enjoyment. However, the cardinal’s symbolic freedom is not everlasting. As Ichabod is talking to the “Witch of the Western Woods,” she opens her fist and “a dead bird spill[s] out-a cardinal” (31; 73). Ichabod responds to this annihilation of freedom by “stepp[ing] back in horror” (73). It is this distrust of civilization and love of nature that leads Ichabod to Sleepy Hollow; and in the end, it is nature that triumphs over the evils of the city with its “snow, falling gently” and “covering [the city’s] multitude of sins” (149).
Sleepy Hollow: Remnants of Times Not So Far Past
In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the theme of haunting is dominant; the haunting itself is purely a human creation and is created solely to meet human needs. Though at times it can seem quite realistic due to emotions evoked through Irving’s masterful use of imagery, it is at all times quite fictional, even to the narrator. Haunting is continuously associated with stretches of the imagination, and also mostly with live or animate things: trees, animals, sounds escaping from the wilderness. The idea of haunting, which leads to stories told by the Sleepy Hollow community, begins when there are no answers to curious happenings, or when the given answers are not satisfactory, or even mundane. The idea is then perpetuated when citizens begin to elaborate and incite new notions of ghosts and goblins from the original stories. The ‘haunting’ begins, however, with supernatural explanations for simple events in the past, such as Andre’s capture during the war; though this is a simple and not uncommon event in wartime, Sleepy Hollow is clutching to the past through vivid story telling. The fact that it is storytelling is subtly clear.One of the key ways that the reader can tell that the haunting is fictitious–or at the very least extremely questionable–is through the narrator’s word choice. Though the story is supposed to be an historical account of events that actually occurred in Sleepy Hollow, he often questions the veracity of the haunting. Even at the climactic point in which Ichabod faces the Headless Horseman, the narrator writes that Ichabod “beheld” (1082) the horseman’s disfigured shape, and that it “appeared” (1083) massive in the darkness. He never uses concrete verbs, such as ‘was,’ because it is not certain that what Ichabod ascertains is truly what is present. He carefully chooses his diction to simultaneously show what Ichabod is seeing as well as the fact that only he is seeing it–it is well possible that it does not exist. He does this strikingly well in the sentence, “Ichabod was horror struck, on perceiving that he was headless” (1083). There is no doubt that the protagonist believes completely in what he is seeing, but the use of the word ‘perception’ is key; it throws doubt upon the believability of Ichabod’s sense of reality.This false sense of haunting that is seen so clearly through Ichabod’s eyes manifests itself in particular places within the text. There are various moments in which nature gives him the feeling of being haunted, though it is harmless.Then, as he wended his way, by swamp and stream andawful woodland, . . .every sound of nature, at that witchinghour, fluttered his excited imagination: the moan of thewhip-or-will from the hill side; the boading cry of the treetoad; . . .the dreary hooting of the screech owl. . . (1064)The wilderness scares him, haunts him in a sense. Through the present nature–the shadows cast by trees, the sounds of forest animals–Ichabod, like all the other Sleepy Hollow residents, fears the past. It is the ‘witching hour’ merely because it is dark outside, and the sounds frighten him merely because he has an ‘excited imagination,’ and for no real substantial reason. Like the tree and stream that Andre is said to haunt, there is nothing that is really to be feared–merely shadows and cricket chirps, wind rustling leaves. The fear, however, is a result of the stories that are told, not necessarily of the actual surroundings. That Andre was captured is not a scary story, but that his spirit remains to haunt can be construed as frightening; it is purely imagination, though, that causes these stories to be told in the first place.The unfaithfulness of such stories is revealed toward the end of the tale. The reader is told that Ichabod is indeed alive and well following his supposed abduction from Sleepy Hollow by the Headless Horseman. The residents of the town also come into this knowledge by a farmer that has seen him firsthand. However, “the old country wives… maintain to this day, that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means… the schoolhouse… was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue” (1086). The Dutch wives, who are the perpetuators of the haunting stories throughout the text, persist in creating stories that they know to be false. They continually take what little past they have, and turn it into stories so that it is not lost, so that there is a history upon which they can build their present. But because they have so little past, they need to use the present to create a past–they use what happens to make a new history, a new past, building upon what they have already created.Ichabod is a prime example of this practice. He is clearly still alive, but he is in the history of Sleepy Hollow because he is no longer bodily present. The true reason for his disappearance is not satisfactory and is not exciting enough material with which to make a history, so the Dutch wives concoct their own history, and it becomes truth. Everyone who enters Sleepy Hollow becomes subject to their whimsical tales, and falls into their belief system, no matter “however wide awake they may have been before they entered the sleepy region” (1060). They cannot be held at fault, however. There is simply so little past that they need to preserve what they have through what is now present, what is now alive. This is shown through the abundance of live and animated haunting imagery. The haunting comes solely from within them, and only manifests itself in these external things. For these people that lack a past, fictitious events become legend, and then those legends become history.
Ichabod Crane: A Farcical Character, and a Political Allegory
Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a story beloved my many, and Ichabod Crane is a highly debated character. Some believe he is merely a man that helped to tell the tale of the legendary Headless Horseman, and others see him as an antihero that represents the human nature. This strange character is both those things, but one thing stands above the rest when analyzing such a remarkable schoolteacher. Ichabod Crane is a farce character that loosely mimics the British rule over America and its ultimate demise. He is an embodiment of the way Americans viewed the British after the Revolution with his lofty character, insatiable appetite, and severe cowardice. He may seem the hero, but, in reality, he is simply a mockery.
Ichabod Crane is a strange name in and of itself, but Ichabod’s appearance and personality help form the character that fits the name. He does not look like a normal hero; he looks famished, and utterly ugly, a prime example of a farce character. He is described as having a lanky body, small head, and big ears and feet. Irving also states that “one might have mistaken him for… some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield” (758). When Ichabod is riding the horse, Gunpowder, the narrator cannot help but mention the hilarity of viewing this scene. “…His sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers… the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings…” (767). As for Ichabod’s personality, he is ludicrous and a mockery of what is real in his bravado and charm. He woos many women, charming them with his intelligence and professed talents such as singing and dancing, though he appears to be overexaggerated at both. Irving says that he is “a man of some importance in the female circles… a kind of idle gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments…” (760). However, his love for himself shines above the favor the ladies take in him. When the narrator describes Ichabod’s singing voice, he does not fail to include that “It was a matter of no little vanity to him… to take his station in front of the church gallery…where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson” (759). Yet, his singing is a “nasal melody” to the country folk and, after Ichabod leaves Sleepy Hollow, “peculiar quavers [can] still… be heard… which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane.” (760). As for his dancing, “Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle, and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, clattering about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person” (769). St. Vitus’ dance is not a pretty one, and for Ichabod to be compared to the saint shows how his dancing was more humorous than beautiful.
Ichabod is not only a strange character, but he also has a strange appetite to match. He seems to wish to devour the entire countryside, and this may be an allusion to the way the British overruled America before the Revolution. Ichabod begins by simply enjoying the delicious food he is given by the country folk he stays with. “…On holiday afternoons [he] would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard” (759). Then his appetite begins to turn to a ravenous allusion. “He was a huge feeder, and though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda.” (759). Soon, his desire to devour turns to a woman and her inheritance. When he looks upon Katrina, the narrator states, “…it is not to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his eyes” (761). Ichabod sees her more as a sweet cake rather than a human, and his desire grows when he sees the wealth flowing from the place she lives. “The pedagogue’s mouth watered, as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare.” The narrator then details the way Ichabod sees every animal as some form of holiday dish. His mind doesn’t stop at the animals, but he continues, observing the house and land itself. “…his imagination expanded with the idea, how [the land] might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts…” (762). His idea of a good life is to marry Katrina and sell everything she owns to move out West. He hungers for more and more, his insatiable desire a comical comparison to the way the British tried to keep America under their rule. Yet, his appetite is somewhat overwhelming, proving how the Americans felt under the rule of Great Britain.
Finally, Ichabod is a coward that runs away from his home in Sleepy Hollow back to Connecticut where he grew up. He runs away due to the fright he receives from the Headless Horseman, but he also runs due to the unspoken conversation he had with Katrina on the night of the party. Irving states, “Something, however… must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chop-fallen” (771). On his trek homeward, he is dejected, and possibly thinking about heading back to Connecticut before the Headless Horseman shows up. Ichabod is also hilariously superstitious, and he “was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s history of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed” (760). He revels in the tales of witchcraft and horror. He finds something intoxicating in stories of the unknown world, yet he is appalled when he walks home alone at night, startled by his own footsteps. Irving says that “his appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary” (760) and that “no tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow” (760) yet, when he was out and about at night and saw fireflies and other nocturnal creatures, “The poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token” (760). Because Ichabod is a known superstitious coward, it is inferred that Brom, Ichabod’s rival, poses as the Headless Horseman. Ichabod could have rationalized that this was true, but, instead, he runs and gets knocked off his horse with a flying pumpkin. The rider is described as “gigantic in height and muffled in a cloak” (773) and Ichabod could have easily seen that this was a trick. This can be compared to the Siege of Yorktown where the British were tricked into thinning their troops and were captured, forced into a surrender to end the Revolutionary War. Ichabod runs back to his home like the British retreat to Great Britain, and Brom is safe to marry Katrina like the Americans were safe to form their own government and be a free country.
Once observed in a way that reflects the British, Ichabod Crane has comical similarities that help to open the story up to a broader perspective. Irving may or may not have based this character loosely off the British rule and fall in America, but Ichabod produces a hilarious likeness to how the Americans saw the British during the time the story was published. His character in general shows an antihero likeness, and his desire to devour everything in sight produces a mockery of how the British monarchy hungered for the American people and countryside. His cowardice, also, represented a jesting form of how the British finally retreated and gave up, going back to where they belonged.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Postcolonialism
Terry W. Thompson’s article “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” was published in Midwest Quarterly in 2013. In this article, Thompson explores the political climate in Washington Irving’s famed short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and evaluates the character Ichabod Crane through a postcolonial lens. Thompson contends that in addition to conventional interpretations of the work, Irving’s short story may be read as an expression of the historical “cultural tension” between Dutch and English settlers in early American society (136). While Irving’s work is generally read as an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban, Thompson argues that there is a larger theme of clashing cultures at the core of these interpretations. In his article, Thompson asserts that Ichabod Crane may be viewed as the embodiment of English colonialism.
In support of his argument, Thompson highlights the various characteristics that make Ichabod stand out as an example of English colonialism. As a man of English heritage from Connecticut, Ichabod is an outsider and minority in the predominantly Dutch area of Sleepy Hollow. Although one might assume that Ichabod’s position as an outsider and minority would force him into the Dutch way of life, that is not the case. Thompson, asserting that Ichabod’s way of thought perpetuates the English colonial mindset, writes, “When the new schoolteacher […] ambles into Sleepy Hollow, he immediately—and intentionally—disrupts a Dutch place with his English worldview and thereby becomes a serious threat to two centuries of stability and homogeneity” (137-138). This interpretation of Ichabod is supported by historical evidence; Indeed, English colonists forcefully sought new territory during the colonization of America with a disregard for previous settlements and existing customs. There is a history of “violence” and “hostility” between the Dutch and English settlers as the English forged their way into new territories, bringing their customs with them (136). Another element of Ichabod’s character that lends itself to Thompson’s interpretation is the fact that Ichabod is a school teacher. Thompson contends that this is an example of the way in which English colonists would forcefully assimilate minority cultures into the English idea of civilized society.
Contrasted against the rural Dutch, Thompson argues that the English Ichabod seems to embody the “expansionist attitude” that was popular among the English colonists (137). Thompson describes the English as being “ruthless purveyors of commerce, industry, development, and growth,” and he parallels this presentation of the English with Ichabod’s actions and attitudes in the work (137). Despite being an outsider, Ichabod makes himself feel quite at home in Sleepy Hollow. Seeking room and board with various families in town, Ichabod may aptly be labeled as an entitled individual. Thompson, delving further into the notion of Ichabod’s sense of entitlement, notes the various ways in which Irving characterizes Ichabod’s hunger. In Irving’s work, Ichabod’s appetite is compared to that of a snake and a locust, and Thompson asserts that this portrayal mimics the insatiable desire that the English colonists possessed regarding expansion. Like a snake that devours its food whole, the English colonists were devouring American land, resources, and minority cultures and customs. Like the locusts that come in swarms, bringing chaos and destruction, the English colonists arrived in America and forcefully placed their ways of life and thought on other cultures and upturned any existing concepts of normalcy.
Continuing his argument that Ichabod embodies English colonialism, Thompson explores the role of Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod’s attitude toward her in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” He proposes that Katrina serves as a “Pocahontas figure” who would permit “[Ichabod’s] entry into the local hierarchy of power” (144). It is not necessarily the affection of Katrina that Ichabod desires; rather, when thinking about Katrina, he focuses on her material wealth, what he would do with it, and how he could gain from it. While he is impressed by Katrina’s beauty, he is more impressed by her father’s land and home. Thompson, explaining the notion of Katrina’s position as a Pocahontas figure, writes,
[Ichabod’s] covert enterprise is to liquidate Katrina’s entire estate and turn the vast acreage that has been Dutch land for almost two centuries into hard cash. […] Ichabod plans, as another Englishman did many generations before, to remove his choses Pocahontas from her ancestral lands. […] In essence, like the teenaged Powhatan girl who was taken away to live in an unfamiliar place far from her own people and culture, Katrina Van Tassel, a Rubenesque avatar of all things Dutch, will be spirited away to a foreign landscape, a lovely trophy taken from an indigenous and therefore inferior race. (145)
The sense of entitlement that Ichabod feels about Katrina, accompanied with his insincere, manipulative, and selfish nature, reflects an English colonial ideology. Ichabod only wants Katrina’s hand in marriage so that he can gain something of monetary or societal value.
If Katrina Van Tassel is the Pocahontas figure, what does that make Brom Van Brunt? How are readers to interpret this character who makes a fool of Ichabod? If, following Thompson’s interpretation, Ichabod is the embodiment of English colonialism, why is he defeated? Generally speaking, the English colonists won, and their customs became the dominant customs of wherever they decided to colonize. Therefore, it could be argued that there is a flaw in Thompson’s argument. Thompson, however, explains Ichabod’s defeat as a representation of the Dutch resistance to cultural assimilation. According to Thompson, Brom epitomizes the Dutch way of life. Because Ichabod is defeated by Brom, Irving’s story can be viewed as a criticism of English colonialism. Although Ichabod is the protagonist of the work, Irving merely uses his character to personify and critique colonialism.
The overall argument of Thompson’s article deserves notice. Using support from the text and the history of English colonialism, Thompson effectively interprets “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as an expression of the tense underlying cultural dynamic that pervaded the colonial period of America. Thompson’s interpretation of the work serves to add depth to other, more conventional, interpretations of the work. The notion that Irving’s short story is an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban can be explained more thoroughly through the postcolonial lens. Utilizing the information from Thompson’s article, readers may understand that the past and the rural of these interpretations are symbols of minority groups and their assimilation into the English idea of society, and the urban and the future of these interpretations are symbols of English colonialism and its tendency to upturn and replace preexisting customs. Thompson adds another layer to the character of Ichabod Crane that aids in understanding why Irving depicts him in the somewhat peculiar manner that he does. Ichabod’s physical appearance, attitude of entitlement, and the overall odd outcome for his character in the work can be explained by Thompson’s explanation of his character’s position as the embodiment of English colonialism.
In conclusion, Thompson’s “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” effectively interprets Irving’s short story as a criticism of English colonialism. In recognition of the underlying cultural tension in early American society, Thompson has an argument that is both compelling and credible. The article highlights the various ways in which Irving depicts the social and political atmospheres of the colonial period in America in his work, and in doing so, Thompson allows for a more in-depth evaluation of the short story’s meaning and analysis of Ichabod Crane. Though the total villainization of Ichabod may not have been what Irving intended, Thompson’s claims shed a useful and informative light on Irving’s work.
Thompson, Terry W. “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’” Midwest Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 2, Winter 2013, pp. 136-148. EBSCOhost, dsc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=85110804&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Recycled and the Phenomenon of Intertextuality Represented through Its Adaptations in American Popular Culture
Washington Irving lived throughout the late 18th – early 19th century and was an American short story writer, essayist, historian, and diplomat. His piece of work, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” can be considered as a classic in today’s American popular culture. The story of Ichabod Crane and the character of the Headless Horseman itself is still circulated around. Several depictions prevail about the image of the headless horseman even 200 years later. The movie titled Sleepy Hollow (1999) and the series from 2013 are also important adaptations to consider when analyzing how the original story is recycled through these.
Irving is connected to American folklore as well, as he represents his characters in folk tales and local settings while also expressing American values (Hoffman). Nowadays mass culture suppresses folk culture in a way, as mass culture is popular culture that is created for the masses of consumers (Strinati 9). However, from my point of view, mass and folk – even high – cultures are connected as originality and the roots of a community that originates from folk culture can facilitate attractiveness for different segments of culture (Strinati 10). Considering “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, the importance of folklore cannot be hidden as part of the short story itself can be associated with European origins and it was created as a folk tale.
The story of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is set in a constructed German setting, in a rural valley near Tarry town. The short story was published in 1820. It is one of the most widely-known gothic stories of American fiction. The protagonist is the outsider intellectual, Ichabod Crane who arrives to Sleepy Hollow to become the schoolmaster of the village. The atmosphere of the village is peculiar, almost dream-like, as if the entire town and the people in it were enchanted. The most exciting phenomenon is the ghost of the Headless Horseman who comes back from time to time to ride his horse by the church where he was buried. He is said to be a Hessian soldier who died during the revolutionary war. The Horseman is searching for his head and haunts the people of the village as well.
However, it is not just the figure of the Headless Horseman that prevails, but also the atmosphere and the setting of the short story. In Irving’s hometown, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, for example, the school mascot is the Headless Horseman, one of the fire trucks is orange and black and you can buy souvenirs connected to the mysterious figure and atmosphere of Sleepy Hollow throughout the whole town (Goldberg). Besides Tarry town, video games, Halloween costumes and other small products, there is the question of adaptations. These adaptations – like the movie from 1999 or the series titled Sleepy Hollow – keep the mysterious figure and superstition alive while recreating the setting itself as well. Another reason for movies as adaptations being so popular is the fact that they can help to understand the original message of the written book or short story. Not to mention that perceiving a story in the 21st century is a lot different than doing it in the era it came out. The purpose of recycling can be to guide, to entertain the audiences, or even to reinforce the original piece and athmosphere that is diverted into something new. Recycled materials are based on other texts while also changing the core and the basic values of them.
Moreover, intertextuality – not strictly in a literal meaning – also comes into the picture when considering the secondary and tertiary texts connected to the original short story itself (Fiske, Reading the Popular 115). Besides the primary text, advertisements and different products also appear for people, as mentioned above. These can be different forms of art, like paintings representing the Horseman or candles, even video games. In this way, people can obtain these products that become the tertiary parts of intertextuality. From this point of view, the movie adaptation from 1999, Sleepy Hollow is crucial, as it is also part of this intertextuality, representing and formulating the original story in the form of an on-screen piece of art. Intertextuality is originally seen as the interrelatedness of texts, in this essay it, however, refers to a broader category in popular culture, incorporating film adaptations as well (Olney 166). The way it is used is that movie adaptations translate the original piece of work to the screen. This statement however presumes that there is an original piece of work to which the given adaptation is indebted. In today’s world it is no surprise that most films are sequels and remakes, music is full with cover versions, and fashion is also recycled according to past styles. This broader interpretation appears in the case of the movie and the series called Sleepy Hollow.
From one point of view, intertextuality is based on texts. However, as it was mentioned before, with the development of technology and with the making of adaptations, it is perceived in a broader sense in today’s world. Thus, intertextuality is vital in the film industry and becomes more and more important in consumer society and advertising, too. In the 21st century a lot of texts, products, and media created objects compete for the audiences’ attention, so the recycling of already widely known or even liked texts can keep these productions and adaptations alive and give them success. So, intertextuality can attract people, especially if the given classics are still relevant and can be connected to contemporary life and audiences.
The film that is analyzed in this paper came out in 1999 and portrayed the settings, characters and main happenings of the plot similarly to those of the short story. When comparing the short story itself to the movie adaptation, differences can also be noticed. For example, the main character, Ichabod Crane himself. In the short story, Ichabod is self-assured who knows what he is doing. However, in the film, he appears as an obscure, hesitant character who is not sure about what he is doing. Not to mention that in the short story, he is the schoolmaster, however, in the film he arrives to investigate the mysterious murder cases of the village. His presence is needed as he is the one who is capable of examining the bodies, and as a result, solving the murderous cases. Katrina’s character also differs, as in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” she is the student of Ichabod. Another significant difference is the ending. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Katrina did not end up choosing Ichabod. In fact, Ichabod disappears after facing the Headless Horseman. Before he disappears, he sees the Headless Horseman hurl his detached head at him. He falls off of his horse and the next day the horse returns to the village but Ichabod does not. While, in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Ichabod and Katrina end up together and move to New York. Ichabod’s future is therefore figurable. A happy ending in the movie, whereas disappearance and rumors about where he went and what he had become in the short story. The above mentioned characteristic features of the short story and others specified in the movie portray that adaptations can – and often do – differ from the original text.
More recently, another adaptation was created in the form of a series that was titled Sleepy Hollow as well. It has to be mentioned that with this adaptation the creators achieved to satisfy the audience’s needs in the 21st century. To confirm this statement, Laura Prudom’s article offers convincing arguments. The most important ones are race and gender. The topic itself occurs in the original short story as well and can be interpreted as the questioning of the typical gender roles in that era, as Ichabod’s character did not fulfil the norms and requirements. According to Prudom, the cast in the series is the most diverse one from the recently made American series: “two of its four series regulars are African-American” (Prudom). Other people of color also appear next to African-Americans. Thus, the series has a huge impact on people’s attitude towards race, for example. The series started in 2013 and remains loyal to the gothic and mysterious atmosphere of the original story, still it modernizes. It is based on a storyline where Ichabod resurrects 250 years after his death. Along with him comes the Headless Horseman, too. The popularity of the series depends on these aspects and on the fact that classics still move people’s imagination and fantasy, so that adaptations are widely welcomed. Of course, it also has to be addressed that there is not much connection to the original tale apart from the characters and the town. This is a feature that shows how adaptations can differ and still bring the original mentality and intellectual appeal with them. In this way, the process of recycling classics have moved beyond being familiar with the most recent versions or adaptations, as those require some background and previous knowledge about the original piece. Of course, there will be differences when comparing the old piece to the new versions, in manner, representation, modern elements and so on.
The remarkability of Irving’s story is the following:
Irving intentionally constructed it as folklore rooted in the country’s history and traditions. Thus, it survives not only as a wonderfully written tale, but also — particularly through the immortal characters of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen — as part of American popular culture and legend. (Grossman qtd. in Charles)
American popular culture incorporates adaptations and it is also based on representing originally written artworks on screen and in everyday products. However, adaptations have both positive and negative features. Obviously, just like in the case of Sleepy Hollow (1999), entertainment is important. The film reaches that goal with its creepy atmosphere that is portrayed just like it was written in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The film also broadens the temporal and spatial range of transferring the literary text to the screen (Olney 167). But the other side of the coin is also present, that is having an interest in profit and creating movies based on our own tastes, therefore departing from the original work. This departing can be percieved in the series, as except for the characters and the village, almost everything else is different. According to Olney, “film adaptations are often no longer based on books at all” (Olney 167). From the adaptation’s point of view, fidelity is another question worth analyzing. Being faithful to the source text is crucial, however, nowadays that view is also changing. Adaptations do not only translate the texts into images but sometimes also offer a different approach and a unique fusion of these two elements (Olney 169). According to these, originality is – though partly represented – endangered in adaptations and in secondary or tertiary texts, too. This is the case as adaptations mostly focus on the audience by whom they are perceived in society and try to satisfy their expectations while also suit to their tastes. It can be related to the chosen genres, to what similarities are kept when considering the original text, to the differences made, or even to the visual aids that are used.
Recycling classics like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and also producing secondary or tertiary texts can be connected to the phenomena of popular discrimination in 21st century’s American popular culture as people choose certain products that they like and reject others (Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 129). This is where fan culture appears, too. With the help of social media, adaptations, secondary and tertiary texts become easily accessible. People rely on capitalism and merchandise different products for the fan base, like souvenirs, T-shirts, mugs or even candles representing the Headless Horseman, for example. In this way, capitalism and consumerism relies on likeability and popularity. Obviously, this is connected to individual taste as well. It can be also stated that reusing classics have become widely used and enjoyed by today. The popularity of this particular movie adaptation (from 1999) could be considered to be based on the image of the Headless Horseman, the mysterious and fearful story, or the entire atmosphere of the initial text incorporated. Just like in the case of the series, as in that not just bits and pieces of the original story were transformed, but the roots as well. This is part of the question of relevance and of mass culture, too where the aim is the satisfaction of the consumer. Intertextuality and recycling the classics in modern popular culture’s art pieces also play a huge role here. In this way, these phenomena – popular discrimination, intertextuality and recycling classics – are intertwined.
Classics are becoming more and more popular in today’s consumer society. This phenomenon is not straightforward to analyze and understand. Considerable reasons are for example, that characteristic features of the people are in many ways the same as they were two hundred years ago; the themes of these classics are still easy to relate to – love, death, searching for answers in life etc. Humor, fear and other emotions are expressed in a manner that is still enjoyable for the reader. A connection to their personal and daily life can also be present in this way, for example by drawing meanings to their own life through these classics or how classics appear in modernized versions. Their quality and writing style are expressive enough to be the ground of different productions, adaptations, or interpretations. Of course, it all depends on personal taste and the will of being interested and opened for perception by the masses. So, the audiences’ response is also a crucial factor. One of the most welcomed feature is that even though adaptations use the original material, they create new content and modernize the stories, so that it is easier to understand and more enjoyable for this generation. This is where relevance comes into the picture. In this way, it is actually possible that people are interested in the particular adaptation itself to see how that represents the original setting and values of the story, and later on they can form their opinion about it. In the series titled Sleepy Hollow, the formation and diversity of the characters also play a huge rule for popularity.
The recycling of classics occur more broadly as culture does not just invite and accept the phenomenon of intertextuality but requires it to become a form of art in today’s popular culture. According to this, it could be stated that there is a need to recycle past popular culture. Based on the above mentioned, the recycling of classics, intertextuality, popular discrimination, and consumerism overlap. Audiences have the ability to rely on newer sources when choosing what to like or reject and they contribute to a market where their choice, taste and money determines production. Recycling can be interpreted as cultural recycling in a sense, as it is connected to a little nostalgia that usually attract audiences. In the case of the adaptations connected to Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” American folklore and people’s associations towards that given tale comes forward. Therefore, recycling remains a dominant stylistic and constructive asset.
Charles, Ron. “The Remarkable Persistence of ‘Sleepy Hollow’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Nov. 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2013/11/15/the-remarkable-persistence-of-sleepy-hollow/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.130ee0532a56. Web. Accessed 04 January, 2019.
Fiske, John. “Chapter 5: Popular Texts.” Reading the Popular. 1989. London & New York: Routledge, 2003. 1-12.
Fiske, John. “Chapter 6: Popular Discrimination.” Understanding Popular Culture. 1989. London & New York: Routledge, 1994. 129-158.
Goldberg, Susan L.M. “Think Pop Culture Doesn’t Matter? Visit Sleepy Hollow, New York.” Video, PJ Media, pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/10/31/think-pop-culture-doesnt-matter-visit-sleepy-hollow-new-york/. Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.
Hoffman, Daniel G. “Irving’s Use of American Folklore in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’” PMLA, vol. 68, no. 3, 1953, pp. 425–435. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/459863. Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.
Olney, Ian. “Texts, Technologies, and Intertextualities: Film Adaptation in a Postmodern World.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 3, 2010, pp. 166–170. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43797653. Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.
Prudom, Laura. “What Every TV Show Can Learn from Sleepy Hollow.” The Week – All You Need to Know about Everything That Matters, The Week, 3 Dec. 2013, theweek.com/articles/455254/what-every-tv-show-learn-from-sleepy-hollow. Web. Accessed 04 January, 2019.
Pulver, Andrew. “Adaptation of the Week No. 45 Sleepy Hollow (1999).” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Feb. 2005, www.theguardian.com/books/2005/feb/12/featuresreviews.guardianreview10. Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.
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