What satire can be found in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is obviously a story about stories and storytelling and the limits of the imagination, and Irving carefully constructs his satire to focus on the dangers of believing in stories too much and trangressing the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction. He chiefly does this through the character of Ichabod Crane, who is presented as a man who does not understand the limits of imagination. He is obsessed by his dreams of marrying Katrina Van Tassel:

...soft anticipation stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.

However he is unable to live up to those dreams and is genuinely shocked by Katrina's refusal. His lack of discernment is key in the way that Brom is able to trick him, because he is unable to identify that the legend is just that: a story. This is of course linked to the postscript of this tale, when the wise storyteller is very clear about his perception of fiction and reality:

"Faith, sir," replied the storyteller, "as to that matter, I don't believe one half of it myself."

Thus the target of this satire is our own tendency to blur the boundaries between stories and reality, and the way that we leave ourselves exposed when we do so, just as Ichabod Crane did. We must heed the message of this story and never let our imaginations get the better of us.

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Irving uses satire to mock both Ichabod and Katrina as well as Ichabod's courtship of her.

Katrina is a flirt: she only wants Ichabod to make her love interest, Brom, jealous. On the other hand, Ichabod is more interested in her lands and inheritance than Katrina herself. Irving mocks the entire man-woman relationship making Ichabod seem greedy for land, and Katrina more than a bit shallow. "She was withal a little of a coquette" (p.10). Both characters are made to appear ridiculous in their relationship. In fact, Ichabod was "peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels" (7). If not for her father's land, Katrina would have been little different from the other women.

As the satire progresses, Ichabod literally falls in love with the house he imagines will be his one day: "When he entered the house, the conquest of his heart was complete" (p.12). He is attracted to the house, not Katrina.

Furthermore, Irving likens Ichabod to a knight having to fight dragons to win his lady (p.13); unfortunately, Ichabod is unfit for that role. He merely has to win Katrina from Brom which is a more impossible feat. In this way the courtship between the two is presented as ridiculous. Ichabod cannot measure up to Brom nor is Katrina even interested in him. Both Katrina and Ichabod have their own agendas, neither motive is love.

Read the study guide:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question