In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," are characters making decisions based not on abstract principles, but rather on the economic system in which they live?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the author demonstrates that often one's environment dictates his or her principles. So, one could argue that the characters' decisions are founded upon abstract principles which result from the setting's economic environment. When Ichabod Crane first sees Katrina Van Tassel, he is drawn to her beauty, but he is even more drawn to Katrina's father's property. The narrator states that

"from the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight [Van Tassel's possessions], the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel" (Paragraph 26).

Thus, Crane's decision to pursue Katrina is most certainly influenced by the economic system of his day. He knows that in the country, wealthy landowners are essentially kings, and he longs for the power and recognition that Van Tassel's estate would give him. However, one could also reason that Crane's choice to court Katrina is motivated by abstract principles such as greed and envy. Then, the question becomes whether humans naturally possess attributes such as greed and develop economic systems based upon those principles, or do the systems themselves turn naturally content individuals into self-serving, obsequious figures.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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