America's first home-grown ghost story, Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow " is set in a part of the United States and in a time in its history that never seem to change. The location of the story is Sleepy Hollow, New York, a quiet valley—"one of...
America's first home-grown ghost story, Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is set in a part of the United States and in a time in its history that never seem to change. The location of the story is Sleepy Hollow, New York, a quiet valley—"one of the quietest places in the whole world"—about two miles from the small port town of Tarry Town, on the eastern shore of the Hudson River.
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was written at a time that the newly-formed United States was still undergoing a revolutionary change into a country that was separate and distinct from its colonial past. Sleepy Hollow is a living time capsule, wholly isolated from that change. Nothing seems to have changed in the bucolic valley from the time the Dutch settled there in the early 1600s until the 1790s, the time in which "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is set, and the people of Sleepy Hollow like it that way.
I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys ... that population, manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved.
Ghost stories, superstitions, myths, and legends like that of the Headless Horseman remain relatively constant in a changing world and keep the history and customs of a place like Sleepy Hollow alive.
In much the same way that the inhabitants of the valley, and of the colonies as a whole, resist the interference of the British in their lives, the people of Sleepy Hollow resist the changes that are affecting the new country, and they resist the interference in their way of life by the lanky Connecticut schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane.
The people of Sleepy Hollow come to tolerate Ichabod and gradually accept him into their community, but Ichabod never ceases looking at Sleepy Hollow and its inhabitants as anything other than an outsider. Ichabod is reminded of his "outsider" status when his advances are rejected by "the blooming" Katrina Van Tassel.
Ichabod disappears from Sleepy Hollow after his horrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman. What emphasizes the essentially unchanging nature of Sleepy Hollow and its people is that any influence or change that Ichabod brought to the valley and its inhabitants faded away in time and are all but forgotten, but Ichabod himself was assimilated into the myth and legend of the Headless Horseman, where he remains to this day.