The pervasive mood of the story if of laziness and lechery infused by superstition and terror. Note the name of the setting, "Tarry Town": if one tarries, it means that they are wasting time. A look about the town will prove that this is so. Men "linger about the village taverns on market days" and the town in general languishes from a lack of developed thinking.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow concerns the mysterious "Headless Horseman." This shadowy apparition terrifies the town; many observe him riding around with his head resting on his saddle. The protagonist of the story, school teacher,, Ichabod Crane, encounters the horseman, who pursues him. The last thing Crane recalls is the menacing figure throwing his head. Crane never returns to his classroom. A search party finds only his rumpled clothing and a smashed pumpkin.
Scholars have argued that the Headless Horseman is really an extended metaphor for a lack of reason. Like nightmares themselves, nothing makes sense without the ability to utilize the power of reasoning.