Essay Example: The Notion of Ghosts in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Published: 2023-04-23
Essay Example: The Notion of Ghosts in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Character analysis Books
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1873 words
16 min read

The idea of ghosts is often explicit in certain locations, originating from narratives and legends, before beating the test of time. Mostly, the narrations about the appearance of ghosts are passed down from a generation to the next, as evident in the text of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow portrays ghosts as explained in various pieces of literature. For instance, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow narrates the story of the headless Hessian soldier ghost that maneuvers the terrains of Sleepy Hollow, terrorizing all and sundry that it comes across. How the story closes, however, does not allow the audience to determine the validity of the Sleepy Hollow tale of the headless Hessian soldier. However, the story provides glimpses of the idea of ghosts, which seem to surpass the expectations of scholars.

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Research points out that while many scholars argue that the advancement of civilization could be instrumental in rooting out the notion of ghosts among individuals, most continue to see and get near ghosts allegedly. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow exhibits how the current population of the location still interacts with the tales that were supposedly developed a long time before the present generation. A comprehension of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow can help scholars understand the reason behind the ease of thriving of ghost stories in certain places, deeming them as haunted. Literature posits that rationalism has not done enough to eliminate the thoughts of ghosts among individuals in places that are said to be haunted by ghosts (Valk, 2018). Such stories encompass the reappearance of the dead, which causes terror to the existing generation.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow captures the stories about the territory's past and how they have developed to haunt the present, with multiple parties stating to have interacted with the ghosts. The other proportion of the population speaks about the tales of the ghosts, depending on how they learned about them from the previous generations. While the whole population does not necessarily interact with the reappeared dead people, they often link various happenings in the community to the presence of ghosts. Such happenings might include accidents and the mysterious disappearance of people (Valk, 2018). Such a phenomenon is evident in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow following the disappearance of Ichabod Crane (Irving, 1863). However, in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, nobody knows what happened to Crane, especially after he left the homestead of Baltus Van Tassel.

Considering the disappearance of Ichabod Crane, the remaining residents of the community would make various speculations in the effort to explain how the scholar disappeared. Nevertheless, it is hardly possible that any of the narrators explaining the disappearance actually understood the route Crane took, abandoning Sleepy Hollow forever. However, Brom Van Brunt seemed always to relate when the tales of Crane's disappearance rung the air, an indication that he could have the reason behind the loss of Ichabod. Often, Brom Van Brunt would seem "exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell" (Irving, 1863). Nonetheless, the disappearance of Crane occurred on the same night that Baltus Van Tassel had a ceremonial occasion at his home. Brom Van Brunt was among the attendants of the ceremony, and so was Ichabod Crane. It might be striking, therefore, if Brom Van Brunt was aware of the disappearance of Crane.

Notably, the Irving (1863) narrative exhibits that the figure that followed him on the way to his home after leaving the party at the homestead of Baltus Van Tassel did not remind Crane of Brom Van Brunt. Instead, it mirrored the fictional identity of Hans Van Ripper, the ghostly character that was stated to be the headless ghost that sprung across Sleepy Hollow at night, killing members of the community that crossed its sight. The narration also fails to state the next phase of actions following the sight of Hans Van Ripper by Crane, with the fictitious figure seemingly holding an enormous calabash-like object that is intended to use to crash Crane. Up to that point, it is hard to discern what transpired between Crane and Hans Van Ripper. The story only states the remains of the ordeal, which the members of the community saw following the break of the following day. The remnants matched the description of the possessions of Crane, whose whereabouts were unknown to the villagers (Greven, 2019).

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow's narration mirrors the universal idea of ghosts that seemingly appear to individuals in various locations across the globe. Murphy (2018) argues that most of ghost stories occur among members of a society that were not initially part of the community. In essence, such a unit consists of people who might have left their original dwellings forcefully, finding their way to their current locations. Such an explanation matches the residents of Sleepy Hollow, which is a locality in the outskirts of New York, in the United States. Irving (1863) posits that most of the dwellers were Dutch migrants. The author reinstates that while local tales characterized the area, it was hard to come across any folklores that encompassed ghosts. Most residents would "seldom hear of ghosts except in our long-established Dutch communities" (Irving, 1863). The members of the Dutch community, therefore, might have forcibly been coerced to live in Sleepy Hollow.

The Sleepy Hollow ghost folklores also captured the story about Major Andre, who had been a resident in Sleepy Hollow but was forcibly taken by unmentioned people. The location of the forceful detention of Major Andre also hosted a great tree, which is said to have paranormal powers, especially following the break of the night. The Sleepy Hollow folklores also stated that a woman in white would appear close to the tree at Raven Rock, shrieking just before a storm started. The locals argue that wails from the woman resulted from the painful death she had to persevere after being left to perish in the snow (Irving 1863). The most spectacular narration, however, involved the headless horseman, who would tie "his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard." The location of the church made it a favourable spot for troubled spirits to haunt the residents of Sleepy Hollow.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow mirrors the narration of Murphy (2018), who captures the ghost stories among Indigenous Australians that had forcibly been separated from their families during the assimilation era. The generations in the two stories shared many characteristics, an indication that the folklores of ghosts result from exposing certain members of the community to particular ills. Notably, it is the fraction of the society that witnessed the transgenerational atrocities that play an instrumental role in passing the narrations to the subsequent generations, making the folklore a part of the community tales. Ghost folklores are mostly common is lost and stolen generations, which encompass communities that were separated from their previous lifestyles against their will. In the effort to achieve the separation, the perpetrators of the malice would deploy violent inflictions that would leave the members traumatized.

The argument by Murphy (2018) is evident in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. While Irving (1863) fails to state the origin and situations that led to the residence of the Dutch community in Sleepy Hollow, the story exhibits that some of the earliest members faced immense atrocities that would represent the origin of the ghost folklores in Sleepy Hollow. For example, the headless horseman, who was a soldier, is said to have been irked by the move by his colleagues to take away his body without caring to find his head. Hence, he would always haunt the Sleepy Hollow community members in search of his head. Another character of the ghost folklore is the woman in white, who would scream just before storms to exhibit her disgust at being left to perish "there in the snow" (Irving, 1863). Major Andre is another character who was subjected to forceful and painful treatment. Despite the difference in physical settings of the two narratives, it is evident that they share similar points, especially concerning the origin of ghost folklore.

Ghosts are associated with the history of a place, as well as how the memory of the happenings interacts with the dwellers of the location. The major origin of ghosts is the memories of the people that experience the presence of the ghosts (Fleischhack & Schenkel, 2016). The past, as well as the events that occur outside the lives of the affected parties, and their thoughts also contribute to the appearance of ghosts. Such an explanation illustrates why the notion of ghosts continues to lure people throughout history and prehistory. Most importantly, the idea of ghosts exhibits the belief of the affected community in the supernatural. Valk (2018) wonders why the civilization of humans has not eliminated the ghostly imaginations. The author states that, as scholars had predicted, the advancement of rationality would possibly decrease people's belief in the supernatural. However, the rational thinking has done almost nothing to limit the ghostly thoughts that haunt generations in certain locations.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow mirrors the argument of Fleischhack & Schenkel (2016) in the sense that it is not only the history of the territory that dictates the vulnerability of the residents but also the forces within and outside of their lives. While the idea of ghosts was widespread in Sleepy Hollow, Irving (1863) only captures the exhibition of the notion on Ichabod Crane. The author, however, provides a probable explanation behind the appearance of the ghosts to Crane by providing the activities that characterized Crane's way of living and beliefs. Crane was a staunch believer in superstition and would mostly carry items that portrayed his belief in the supernatural. For instance, he would always sway "a ferule, that scepter of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a constant terror to evil-doers; while on the desk before him might be seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon the persons of idle urchins; such as half-munched apples, popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper game-cocks" (Irving 1863). The possession of such items indicates the character's belief in superstition. Apart from leading the singing and learning classes, Crane would spend a significant percentage of his time with elderly women discussing such superstitious themes as witchcraft, which was widespread in the history of Sleepy Hollow.

The other characters of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow only discuss the ideas of ghosts, not because they held certain beliefs that would associate them with such supernatural faiths, but because they grew up in a community that held them. One of the characters, Brom Van Brunt, narrates his encounter with Hans Van Ripper, the headless horseman. However, how Irving (1863) portrays Brom implies that he was not such a staunch believer in the notion of ghosts. Instead, he was desperate for attention and would always want to appear as the hero of the village. The story of Brom encountering Hans Van Ripper does not seem to add up because of how the author paints his image. Brom had allegedly engaged Hans Van Ripper in a race and beaten him, with each using his horse.

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