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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

Singing

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

The few times Ichabod isn't stuffing his face or waiting to stuff it, he's singing. And this guy sure is proud of his singing, even though Irving hints that it might be more like a dog whining than the song of a nightingale. But the people of Sleepy Hollow are impressed enough, and he gets to be their choirmaster.

That's all pretty normal, we guess. But did you notice that Ichabod seems to sing at very specific times? Yep, when he's scared. Irving writes, "His only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought, or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes" (1.16). Somehow, singing seems to make everything better. But on the night the Headless Horseman appears, Ichabod can't sing (1.64). No!

What does it all mean? No, really, we're asking. Here are some ideas we've had, but tell us if you think we missed something:

  • Ichabod only sings psalms, so maybe it's the Christian aspect of his songs that's keeping the spirits away. Religious overtones, perhaps?
  • Maybe it's just showing us how much Ichabod is like a little kid; he can't think about two things at once, so the ghosts he imagines melt away when he focuses his mind on the song. 
  • The fact that Ichabod can't sing when the Headless Horseman comes his way might be a way of showing us that, this time, the apparition is real. Or at least something is different this time. Dun dun dun.

What do you think?

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