What is the characterisation of Ichabod Crane in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?What is the characterization of Ichabod Crane in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?"

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Authors achieve characterization through many techniques. Some among them include:

  • direct characterization, in which the narrator describes the character's personality
  • physical characterization, such as the character's look and manner
  • interactions with other characters
  • name symbolism

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Irving uses name symbolism for Ichabod Crane.  The name Ichabod means "inglorious" in Hebrew, and a crane is a long-legged and long-necked bird.  Both apply to the character, as Ichabod Crane is described as "tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together." He also leaves Sleepy Hollow ignominiously.

Crane is described comically as having a voracious appetite: "he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda."  He is characterized as greedy, and once he realizes the wealth and bounty of Sleepy Hollow, he becomes "wonderfully gentle and ingratiating" by helping the farmers and their wives by becoming an exacting but fair schoolmaster. Crane revels in being regarded as "Our man of letters. . . and was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels." The Van Tassel farm is particularly appealing to Ichabod, and "from the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, 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." Ichabod becomes dogged in his pursuit of Katrina and the dowry that comes with her. 

After his mysterious disappearance, Ichabod's earthly remains can be understood to symbolize his physical and moral poverty: "they consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck; a pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-clothes; a rusty razor; a book of psalm-tunes, full of dogs’ ears; and a broken pitch pipe."

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ichabod is characterized in many different ways, the first being physical. Irving tells us that Ichabod is tall and skinny, with gangly hands and shovel-sized feet. We are also told that he is neat in his grooming and appearance, and that his nose is of considerable size, looking like a weathervane attached to the pinnacle of a barn.

The second way he is characterized is by personality. We know that he is superstitious, and that he believes in ghosts, witchcraft, and other spectral arts. We are told he is a fair disciplinarian in his classroom where he teaches, and that he is a "huge feeder," meaning he can really put away the food when eating.

He is portrayed as gentlemanly and scholarly, but at the same time, he is seen as one of the weaker characters in this story. His presence is not one that is formidable physically or situationally speaking. In fact, ladies feel most comfortable around him due to his lack of intimidating stature, among other reasons.

These are just a few of Ichabod's characterizations seen in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." For more information, visit the link below.

iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The other response to this question does a great job of explaining Ichabod's major characteristics and how they fit into the context of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." It is also worth dwelling on an implied characteristic of Ichabod, which is quite important to the way we view him as a protagonist. Generally, many readers find Ichabod sympathetic because he is the classic "underdog," a nerdy academic vying with Sleepy Hollow's resident "manly" man, Brom Bones. However, we must not forget that, in some ways, Ichabod is actually a greedy person. He is interested in Katrina Van Tassel partly because she is attractive, but he is also interested because her father is a wealthy farmer and the owner of a great deal of land. Continuously hungry and a creature of material comforts, Ichabod wants to marry Katrina in order to inherit her father's prosperous property. Seen from this perspective, it is harder to feel sorry for Ichabod when he encounters the headless horseman, as he is less of a sympathetic underdog and more of a greedy suitor who gets, in some ways at least, what he deserves.   

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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