Archetypes In The Headless Horseman

2046 Words 8 Pages
According to Haviland, “Verbal arts generally transmit and preserve a culture’s customs and values” (341). Throughout the United States, the story of the Headless Horseman, a verbal story described in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is well-known in American folklore. It is a scary story that many children tell around the campfire in an attempt to scare one another, saying that if someone is not careful, the Headless Horseman will come for them. However, many Americans do not realize that this legend originated from a story that appears in Washington Irving’s book, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Washington Irving was born to a Scottish immigrant family on April 3, 1783, in New York City. Later that year, The Treaty of Paris was signed, …show more content…
However, they are meant to clash, because they both represent different American archetypes that were emerging during the early 19th century: Ichabod represents a Yankee, and Brom represents the backwoods frontiersman (Hoffman 425). Even though these archetypes were already known in American folklore, Irving was the first to write about “the clash of regional characters-the Yankee vs. the backwoodsman” (Hoffman 425). The early archetype of the Yankee was “characterized by his rusticity, boastfulness, inquisitiveness, independence, and the playing off of these characteristics against the mores of a more highly polished society” (Hoffman 425). However, as the archetype began to evolve, the Yankee became the person from a so-called higher culture when compared to the Backwoodsman. Instead, the Backwoodsman began to inherit the traits of the early depiction of Yankees, only they were given greater energy to symbolize the physical and mental stresses of living in the woods (Hoffman …show more content…
It also means that the character itself is defined using great amounts of detail, so the archetype itself could be fully developed. One of the first things one notices about Ichabod, is that he works his way into the tight knit community of Sleepy Hollow through being a “jack of all trades” (Hoffman 429). Ichabod offers help beyond teaching kids in the schoolhouse by helping around on the local farms, taking care of kids when parents needed assistance, and by becoming the town’s singing teacher (Irving, Norberg, and Stade 168). This represents the “propensity of the American hero to assume whatever guise he chooses” (Hoffman 429), showing that this character has the ability to choose his own destiny. Another characteristic is Ichabod’s fondness of “marvelous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted houses . . .” (Irving, Norberg, and Stade 169). This serves to show two aspects of his character; firstly, it demonstrates his Puritan roots from Connecticut. Connecticut was well known for being extremely religious and paranoid about witchcraft and demons, which explains Ichabod’s obsession with the supernatural. However, it also serves to show his gullibility, which is later used to run him out of town. Although Ichabod is not physically strong, he uses his wit and culture to try and woo Katrina Van Tassel,

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