The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
The Almost End
Whodunit? Actually, wait. Whodunwhat? What exactly happens at the end of this story? The way we see it, there are two possibilities:
- Brom Bones pranked Ichabod one last time, and Ichabod took off and eventually became a judge.
- The Headless Horseman killed (or "spirited away" [1.73]) Ichabod, and he now haunts the town.
Here's a thought, though. Maybe it doesn't really matter what happened. Maybe this ambiguous ending is supposed to make us question the whole notion of the supernatural. The fact that we're even wondering if it was the Headless Horseman (we mean, really, there was a pumpkin on the ground!) means that we're just as irrational as the residents of Sleepy Hollow.
And now on to the very end. We're talking last line:
"Faith, sir," replied the story-teller, "as to that matter, I don't believe one-half of it myself." (2.7)
The discussion in the postscript between the old man storyteller and the skeptic casts even more doubt on the story. The skeptic, like us, is trying to get the story straight, but all the narrator does is make everything even more confusing. Thanks, narrator. Not.
The whole postscript takes us out of the dreamy world of Sleepy Hollow and puts us on the (theoretically) real island of Manhattan. In this new realistic setting, we are more willing to accept that maybe there is some truth to the story. But then the last line shoots us down. Or does it? What about the half that the narrator might believe? Ah! What are we supposed to think?
Guess what, Shmoopers? Joke's on us. We're betting this is exactly what Irving had in mind.