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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


by Washington Irving

Brom Van Brunt (Abraham, Brom Bones)

Character Analysis


We get it, we get it. Brom is strong and rough. He's a guy's guy. If he had been born later, and in the Midwest, he probably would have been a cowboy. He knows everything there is to know about horseback riding, he wins every race, and the townspeople come to him to judge all of their disputes (1.26). Sound like the opposite of anyone you know?

Yep, Brom is a superfoil. Let's take a quick tour through Foilville:

  • Ichabod has the book smarts; Brom has the street smarts.
  • Ichabod is a loner; Brom has friends (lots of them!).
  • Ichabod is lanky and weak; Brom is Sleepy Hollow's resident alpha male.
  • Ichabod can't ride a horse for the life of him; Brom is an awesome horseman (or should we say Horseman?).

All of Brom's qualities just make Ichabod's qualities seem even more absurd. Perfect foil behavior, Brom.

The Anti-Villain

Even though Brom is Ichabod's rival, he doesn't actually seem like a mean guy. Irving describes him as having "more mischief than ill will in his composition" (1.26). He's less like a neighborhood bully, and more like that guy who gets a little too serious about April Fool's Day. Even though he should be the villain, we kind of like the guy. So if he is not a real villain, then what is he? (Drumroll please…) The anti-villain!

Actually, Brom is everything a hero is supposed to be. He's handsome, strong, and manly. Everyone looks up to him and he's got the prettiest girl in town. Oh, and he has a sense of humor—prank style. Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, and his skills with the ladies certainly need improving. But we're supposed to think he's a pretty decent, normal dude.

Making the bad guy good and the good guy bad is just one way that Irving switches things up in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Irving has us rooting for the bad guy—and even though it's wrong, it feels so right.

Walk With the Animals, Talk With the Animals

Brom walks on the wild side. Irving is not shy about comparing this guy to animals:

[H]is amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear […]. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours. (1.27)

Let's take a look at that lion comparison. We've all seen The Lion King. We all know Mufasa. Lions are royalty; they are strong, noble, and the kings of the jungle. No one is higher in the food chain. Brom is the same way: he's the leader of the pack and he won't hesitate to take you out.

Next up, a bear. Imagine a bear having tea with the queen. Awkward, right? You get the picture. Brom is good at what he does, but when it comes to the ladies and other fancy stuff, he's like a fish out of water.

Oh, and to top it off, the guy wears a foxtail hat (1.26). Sly as a fox, anyone?

Making Brom an integral part of nature isolates Ichabod even further as the most human of all humans in the story. Goes to show you what Washington Irving thought of humans.