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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Why do women consider Ichabod Crane important in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

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Described as a "worthy wight," Ichabod Crane "tarried" in Sleepy Hollow in order to instruct the children, yet he was more martinet than instructor, or as Crane writes, he is "doing his duty by their parents." Further, he makes himself useful to the farmers by cutting firewood, helping to make hay, mending fences, watering the horses, and bringing in the cows at the end of the day. Additionally, he is "the singing-master" of the community and instructs the youth in "psalmody." In his many jests at supernatural conventions in this tale, Irving describes Crane's voice,

Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off...on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane.

Further, Irving writes, "The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural neighborhood...." because he is presumed to be a gentleman of superior tastes, and to have many accomplishments, and be "inferior in learning only to the parson." For these reasons, his appearance in the homes of these ladies gave occasion to some "little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse." Ichabod was happy as the pedant among them; he would recite all the epitaphs on the tombstones and walk with many of the maidens, speaking with "superior elegance and address." He has the time to talk with the ladies after church, or in the evenings of the winter, he sometimes visits the Dutch wives and listens to their tales of ghosts and myriad haunted places while thrilling them with his own tales of witchcraft from the Puritan "Mather's direful tales."

A Conneticut man who is educated, Ichabod Crane is perceived by the women as unique and superior to the locally bred Sleepy Hollow men. He speaks of things exotic to the women, tales that quicken their hearts, and he plays with their children and helps them with chores.

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In Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," why do the women of the countryside think Ichabod is an important person?

Not only are the women of Sleepy Hollow all spellbound by the area's fascination with superstitious stories, but they are also products of the time period's social hierarchy. That hierarchy is shaped like a triangle. At the bottom of this triangle are all the lower class (working class) people. Above the working class are people from the high middle class who are like Baltus Van Tassel. Van Tassel has a large farm and enjoys the riches expected from a rural community. Above him would be Ichabod Crane because of his education. Education wasn't something that was easily gained past 8th grade during those times, so anyone with a college education was considered a part of the more advantaged part of society. Finally, above Crane on this social hierarchy, is the parson because he too has a higher education than the average rural farmer and is the spiritual leader of the community. Thus, the women, who pay attention to such matters, view Crane as an authority figure and leader of the community. To invite him over to their homes for dinner would be considered an honor, as if a celebrity were visiting their homes.

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