drawing of the headless horseman holding a pumpkin and riding a horse through the woods

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving
Start Free Trial

When Ichabod arrives at the Van Tassels' party in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," what is his mood?

Ichabod arrives at the Van Tassels’ party in a hopeful, sanguine, and cheerful mood, anticipating a great feast and the beginning of a relationship with Katrina Van Tassel.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ichabod Crane is in a very good mood when he arrives at the Van Tassels' party. And why wouldn't he be? He's expecting to have his fill of the finest food available for miles around. He knows that there will be a generous spread at the party, with plenty of lovely pies and cakes for him to enjoy.

Ichabod is also happy because he's very much a party animal. He loves dressing up and showing off what he regards as his exceptional dancing skills, and he hopes to impress the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, whom he hopes to marry. Ichabod hopes that Katrina will be so impressed by his moves on the dance floor that she'll seriously consider becoming Mrs. Crane.

When Ichabod arrives at the party, he's pleased to see the cream of local society has turned up. That he was been invited to attend a soiree with such a select group must be rather flattering to his ego. No wonder he rushed through his lessons and left school early. He was so keen to get to the party and impress everyone that he had to give himself more time to dress up for the evening.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As he arrives at the Van Tassels' party, Ichabod's mood is hopeful, sanguine, and generally cheerful. Irving makes it clear that there are two main reasons for this mood. The first, and most immediate is that he anticipates great quantities of excellent food. Even as he rides to the party, the apples he sees hanging from the trees and the pumpkins and corn in the fields remind him of the delights that await him. In this, he is not disappointed, and Irving goes into some detail in describing the array of pies and cakes with which he is greeted.

The other reason for Ichabod's hopeful mood is more long-term and speculative. He has been dreaming of marrying Katrina Van Tassel, and intends to impress her with his dancing and singing. Ichabod is obviously attracted to Katrina, who is a beautiful girl, but most of his fantasies are not about her so much as the status he would enjoy as her husband. As he looks around the Van Tassels' farmhouse, he cannot help imagining himself as "lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor." He tells himself that when he is married to Katrina, he will not only enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, but will also be in a position to "snap his fingers in the face" of everyone who insults or undervalues him in his present position as a poor schoolmaster. His thoughts, therefore, are mainly dreams of a happy future, which never comes to pass.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" describes schoolmaster Ichabod Crane's encounter with a ghost in rural New York during the late 18th century. It juxtaposes this ghost story with an idyllic picture of life at this time, thereby enhancing the effect the ghost creates and the personal impact it has upon Ichabod.

The greater part of the story's first half is concerned with establishing Ichabod's character and the life he lives. We are quickly informed of his gangly appearance, as well as his love of food, and his infatuation with Katrina Van Tassel and the bounty of her father's estate. His rivalry with Brom Bones is introduced, and has produced some conflict, but has not yet come to a head; he is still primarily concerned with winning over Katrina, and the invitation to the Van Tassel's party seems like a fine occasion to win a few points in her favor.

Irving never directly states "Ichabod was in a good mood!" or anything direct at all, but we may infer Ichabod's mood through the actions and the author's focus in leading up to the party, as well as a few key lines.

  • As soon as Ichabod is informed of the party (in the middle of the school day), "the scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping," implying that Ichabod is basically kicking them out early so he'll have enough time to properly get ready for the party. He goes on to spend extra time dolling himself up, and borrowing a horse, so that he'll make a proper entrance. From this we can guess that Ichabod is probably a little anxious to make a good impression.
  • As he rides to the Van Tassel's, Ichabod observes various scenes of idyllic beauty; the colors of autumn in the trees, the many birds and their calls, the variety of food ready to be harvested (much to his delight) and the sunset over the Hudson river. The depth of description and prose that Irving dedicates to these paragraphs seem to be setting this up as a perfect evening, and the scenes before him certain to lift Ichabod's spirit.
  • Finally, when he arrives at the party, Ichabod observes the "pride and flower of the adjacent country" - everyone looking their best. Once inside, he takes in the sight of the banquet that has been set out for the guests; this can only serve to increase his happiness. As Ichabod sets to work on the food, we are told:

He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with eating, as some men's do with drink.

So we can assume that Ichabod arrives at the party in a good mood, pleased with his ride, ready to make a good impression, and it only gets better from there.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team