What is the resolution of the conflicts in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ironically, the resolution of the conflicts involves that which Ichabod initiates himself; namely, the interest in the supernatural.  And, it is with his character Ichabod Crane that Irving pokes fun of supernatural conventions and parodies the Romantic hero.

Although Ichabod, a native of Conneticut and the schoolmaster, becomes an authority of Cotton Mather's History of New England Witchcraft;  he utilizes this "appetite for the marvellous" as a means to appeasing his physical appetite by ingratiating himself with the old Dutch wives, listening to their tales of ghosts and goblins after they have fed him. But, on his walks home, Ichabod is fearful with the "terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness."

His interest in Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a wealthy Dutch farmer, leads Ichabod to the Van Tassel farm where his fancy with food and plenty is captured. Thus, he essays to gain the affections of Miss Van Tassel.  However, there is a rival for Katrina's love:  Brom van Brunt, "the hero of the county round."  So, Ichabod disguises his advances upon Katrina by making visits as the singing-master, and he is very wary of his adversary, Brom, not affording him opportunities for combat. Nevertheless, Brom is able to stop up the chimney in the schoolhouse, and he and his friends turn things topsy-turvy.

When Ichabod Crane is invited to a party at the Van Tassels' he arrives on a horse that is the antithesis of Brom Bones's steed Daredevil.  At the party, more ghost stories are recounted; Brom claims to have defeated the Hussian in a race. This story and all the others that Ichabod has heard resound in his memory as he sets out for home.  Suddenly, Ichabod perceives the shadowy form of a horseman in the middle of the road; so, he urges his horse to run, but the other stays in step with him.  When the rider passes before the moon, Ichabod sees that he is headless, and that he carries his head upon the pommel of his saddle. As he attempts to flee on the back of old Gunpowder, the horse manages to cross the bridge, so Ichabod looks back. It is then that Ichabod realizes that the pursuing headless horseman is about to hurl his carried head.  Ichabod hurries, but is tumbled headlong into the dust.

The next morning the schoolmaster does not appear, nor is he ever seen again. A search party is formed, but only a large pumpkin and small bundle of Crane's is found. Tales of Ichabod Crane burgeon, tales that the headless horseman carried off Crane and the schoolhouse

was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue.... 

While Brom Bones laughs and gives a "knowing look" whenever the old country wives  mention Ichabod Crane, they, nevertheless, insist that Ichabod has been "spirited away by spiritual means."

Thus, the conflict between Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane is resolved by this disappearance of Crane.  In an ironic twist of fate, Crane becomes the object of his own interests:  He himself becomes a part of supernatural tales.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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