Discuss the conflict between irrationalism and science in 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

gpane's profile pic

gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

The general tendency in the little village of Sleepy Hollow is to believe in all things supernatural and to discount scientific rationalism. Even Ichabod Crane, the schoolmaster and man of learning, is not exempt from this. In fact, he avidly laps up the old legends and ghost stories as recounted by the housewives of the settlement.  Ichabod’s great belief in the marvellous makes him an easy target for his love rival Brom Bones who dresses up as the headless horseman to frighten him off.

Actually, it is not directly stated that Brom Bones is behind the grim apparition of the headless horseman, but all evidence certainly points to it. As to Ichabod, who mysteriously vanishes after this encounter, a light is shed on his fate when a farmer brings the news that he has simply moved to another town. Thus a rational explanation appears to clear up all the mystery.

However, the last word is actually left with the more credulous and irrational country people, the old housewives who never waver in their belief that Ichabod was taken by the ghost. Moreover, it is claimed that his voice still lingers around the old schoolhouse:

The ploughboy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.

Thus the narrative ends on this haunting speculative note rather than with the mood of prosaic explication, leaving us with a picture of the village that is more romantic than rational, still in thrall to old tales and legends of the supernatural. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,994 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question