What's is the importance of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving in American literature?

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Episode 172 of the popular television show, Seinfeld (the number one show on NBC at the time) contains a joke in which an industrial smoothing company has accidentally made the head of a statue too small. One of the characters suggests that the best way to deal with this would be to get rid of the head entirely, put a pumpkin under the statue’s arm and change the inscription to “Ichabod Crane.”

Any reader of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will realize the mistake: confusing Ichabod himself with the headless horseman who terrifies him. This, however, is part of the point: the name of Ichabod Crane and his connection with headless figures and pumpkins is well-known to millions of Americans who have never read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Irving has created one of the select band of literary characters who are instantly recognizable and seem always to have existed: Scrooge, Willy Wonka, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Trunchbull, Holden Caulfield, and so on. Even among major authors, the...

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