What is the conflict in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

There are actually several conflicts in Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," such as in America in a time of transition, in ethnic conflict, in the personality types of the characters, and in the split between past and present.

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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" takes place at a time when the United States had only recently achieved its independence. Washington Irving 's stories often describe a setting that exists half in the old world and half in the new. There is a sense that the past has...

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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" takes place at a time when the United States had only recently achieved its independence. Washington Irving's stories often describe a setting that exists half in the old world and half in the new. There is a sense that the past has been shaken off but that there are remnants of it that persist in the minds of the people. In Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," the title character himself, a relic of the past awakened into the new world, symbolizes this division.

In "Sleepy Hollow," the past is represented by the legend itself, a supposed ghost of a Hessian soldier from the War of Independence. The Revolution is over and the British and their Hessian allies have been defeated, but this figure haunts the imagination of the residents of Tarry Town. The Hollow is a magical place that holds its power over people's minds in spite of the Enlightenment and the new, soon-to-be mechanized world that is emerging. So the elementary conflict is between past and present and between superstition and modern, enlightened belief.

Another conflict is an ethnic one. In a setting where people of Dutch descent are dominant, Ichabod Crane is an outsider, the Other, as strange as that may seem, given his Anglo-Saxon background. Brom is the insider, and it seems natural that Katrina should prefer him to the awkward, less physical, bookish man Crane appears to be. When Crane is scared off by the supposed headless horseman, he seems to be getting his comeuppance for thinking that Katrina could accept him.

Yet Crane could be seen as a representative of modernity. He is a new type of man, not relying on brawn and not adhering to the clannish attitudes of the past that would presumably make him unsuitable for Katrina simply because of his ethnicity. The fact that America was to eventually become the proverbial "melting pot" in which at least the different European nationalities were soon to blend together indicates that although Crane has lost the battle, his side of the conflict will win the "war," if that's what it is. Old and new, past and present, brawn versus brains, and tribal versus unified are all elements of conflict in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

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Aside from the obvious conflict between Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones, there are a number of other conflicts at work in Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. First, the beliefs of the very town are in conflict with the larger region, as those in the town subscribe to various superstitions, including that of the Headless Horseman. Irving comments on the discrepancy, going so far as to say that when outsiders come to Tarrytown

they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.

Within Ichabod himself is also the conflict between his fondness for supernatural tales and their effects on his imagination. Washington writes of Ichabod's enjoyment of ghost stories:

But if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no spectre dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant window!

Ichabod himself is conflicted between the enjoyment he gains from ghost stories, and the way in which they wreck havoc with his imagination. Further, more conflicts manifest themselves in Ichabod's very character. He is said to have "a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his character." This shows up in his pursuit of Katrina Van Tassel, but also in his constant opportunism. Ichabod is not a teacher because he wishes to help the youth of the developing country. Rather, he is a teacher because it presents him with meals, places to stay, and the admiration of some, but not all. It is in this final point that another conflict can be found: the friction between the school and the town. While Ichabod was in Tarrytown, education was given a certain level of esteem. However, Washington Irving's personal disdain for schooling manifests itself in his portrayal of the selfish, opportunistic Ichabod. Additionally, even though Ichabod was held in high regard by most of the town, after he disappears his books were

consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward, determined to send his children no more to school, observing that he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing.

These are just a few of the many conflicts that Irving presents in his story. The entire tale is comprised of ambiguities and conflicts, which is perfect given the ambiguity surrounding the fate of the conflicted Ichabod.

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The main plot conflict in this story is between Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones over the lovely Katrina. Both men want to marry this young woman. She can only pick one to be her husband.

Ichabod Crane is an outsider and scholar who comes to teach in the village school. He is effete and superstitious whereas Brom is manly and openhearted. Crane wants to marry Katrina for the wrong reasons: he lusts after her family wealth. Brom, in contrast, loves Katrina for herself.

In the climax of this classic trickster tale, Brom uses his wits and pragmatism to defeat his rival. He scares Crane away by playing on his superstitious fears when he creates a dreaded "headless horseman" with a pumpkin.

This outward conflict highlights the differences between the robust ways of a new young country, exemplified in Brom, and the backward-looking sensibility of Crane's more European mindset.

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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has two main conflicts. These conflicts present themselves as stark contrasts. The first conflict is found in the contrast between the bustle of the city, and the openness of the countryside. These two settings, and the connotations they have, are at odds with each other throughout the novel. The second conflict is represented by the two main male characters in the novel. It is the conflict between brains and brawn. Both of these conflicts are dealt with and enhanced by Irving's wonderful use of imagery.

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