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

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

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In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," what mood is created through the setting's description?

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When referring to mood, one must consider the history and atmosphere in which the setting takes place as well as the geographical landscape. Washington Irving takes great care to consider all of these elements in order to create a sense of mystery and wonder. For starters, the title itself includes the elements of history and mystery through the word "legend." Legends are stories based on fact and myth--both of which tease a human's sense of curiosity. Then, the name of the village provides insight into the geography and the atmosphere--"Sleepy Hollow"-- which suggests the laziness of mind as well as the seclusion and isolation necessary to create such idol minds. Also at the beginning of the story are a few introductory lines of verse that seem to cast a spell on the reader. This leads the reader down into the Hollow by way of orientation into the "Castle of Indolence." If one were to deconstruct the leading poem, key words such as "drowsy," "half-shut eye," and "dreams," point the story in the direction of being able to believe in the mysterious and unexplainable stories of the long-established area.

It is also interesting to note that Irving places the story during the summer time, which usually signifies a time of peace and happiness. However, the fact that something mysterious can happen during such youthful and happy times in life gives way to the notion that nothing is ever exactly as it seems. The people of the Hollow are inextricably attached to the geography due to their long-entrenched roots that also make up their own composition of being superstitious and spellbound. Irving echoes this sentiment when he writes, "From the listless repose of the place, the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW. . . Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie"(1).

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