What are some examples of Romanticism in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some themes that the Romantics used a lot were themes of the individual, nature and death as you say.  But they also were into the idea that emotions were important (more so than logic) and that dreams and visions meant something.  Finally, the Romantics were into the supernatural.

As far as the idea of nature goes, the description of Sleepy Hollow is pretty romantic.

Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.


The whole idea of the headless horseman and of the many legends and "ghost stories" that the people tell is very much in line with the ideas of romanticism.

Finally, the fact that Katrina prefers Brom to Ichabod seems Romantic.  In terms of intellect and logic, Ichabod is superior.  But she prefers Brom because he's so manly.

I'm sure there are many other examples, but these are a few.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the Romantic elements of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is its use of folkloric elements. For example, the story begins with a reference to "ancient Dutch navigators," and the author states that some people believe that Sleepy Hollow was bewitched during early Dutch times and that an old Indian chief held powwows there. European Romantic writing often referred to or used elements of folklore, and Washington Irving is trying to create an American brand of folklore by referring to the Dutch and to Native American history.

In addition, the tale features elements of the supernatural, including the headless horseman who is the ghost of a Hessian soldier. The specter continues to haunt Sleepy Hollow, and people believe in its existence. Following Romantic literary tradition, nature is part of the supernatural and has an eerie quality to it. As Ichabod Crane makes his way home from a dance, nature acquires a mysteriousness as "the Tappan Zee spread its dusky waters." The Hudson River itself becomes a force of mystery and the supernatural as the night becomes darker and darker and the horrible headless horseman appears. 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post alluded to much in the way of Romanticism in Irving's work.  I think the most overwhelming element present resided in the faith and trust in emotion as opposed to strict concepts of reason.  The fact that the schoolteacher is subject to believing the "ghost stories" of lore helps to illuminate this presence of emotion.  In line with the movement in American Literature of Transcendentalism, which is a variation on European Romanticism, Irving creates a persona of Crane that, despite the supposedly strict and stringent notion of the schoolteacher, is one who believes in the unknown and that which cannot be categorized through pure logic and explanation.  This is quite consistent with Romantic thought, which embraced the emotional and that which lie outside the realm of scientific and calculating thought.

mkcapen1 | Student

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a good source of romantic fiction.  There are two male characters vying for Katrin Van Tassel's attention and love, Braum Bones and Ichabob Crane.  The book has a focus on ghosts and supernatural events, common in romantic fiction.  Irving, the writer of the story, was known for writing romantic fiction.  He wrote during an era of enlightenment versus the staunch rules of Puritanism.  He demonstrates his skill by adding elements of nature and gothic imagery.  The surroundings would suggest that the rural scenes offer comfort and beauty, but underneath lurks the ghostly trespass of the headless horseman.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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