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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


by Washington Irving

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Just a Small, American Town

Ichabod Crane is the schoolteacher in Sleepy Hollow, a town where not much ever happens. Oh, except for ghost stories. The people in this town are obsessed with ghosts—and so is Ichabod. This is pretty much all we need to know before the story gets going.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Boy Meets Girl's Father's Riches

Speaking of obsessions, Ichabod is addicted to eating. When he realizes that he can gain access to unlimited refills by marrying Katrina, the hunt is on. The only problem is that another guy already had his eye on this lady, and now he wants to kill Ichabod. Oops. This is the oldest conflict of all time: romantic rivals. It can't get more classic. Consider the action risen.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

The Horseman Is Out to Get You

Ichabod gets invited to a party at Katrina's house and it is hoppin'. Unfortunately, it doesn't end so well for Ichabod, because his lady dumps him at the end of it. On the sad, long ride home he gets chased by the Headless Horseman and falls off of his horse. Change, excitement, a chase—great formula for a climax.

Falling Action

Ichabod Who?

After Ichabod disappears, no one even cares. They move on, get another teacher, and burn his books. In the end, he becomes just another ghost story. Oh well. We find out what happened to Ichabod and who gets the girl, so all the strings are tied up in this falling action. Right?

Resolution (Denouement)

Old Men Telling Tales

The Postscript ends with a conversation between two men that goes roughly like this:

Guy 1: "What was the moral of the story?"
Guy 2: "There wasn't one."
Guy 1: "So the story wasn't true?"
Guy 2: "Of course it wasn't."

Maybe this isn't happily ever after, but it's something.

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