Themes In The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

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Elements in a story shape its setting, which in turn shapes theme. Social events during the time period, symbols, and characteristics of a location are used to explicate a common lead and are able to give readers a clear image of the central message of the story. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving, “ Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” by Edgar Allan Poe, a gothic lead that highlights the theme is common. Through the use of gothic elements, setting is shaped in such a way that each protagonist explores human experience and finds that it is an enigmatic mixture of good and evil, and as a result of the setting, evil contributes to the destruction of goodness. The intense romance…show more content…
Additionally, Dr. Rappaccini covers his face with a mask while tending to his plants (Hawthorne 2). It appears that he is avoiding the touch and aroma of the flowers, as to protect himself from their poison. As stated in “ Dual Aspects of Evil,”one shrub in particular is an “ambiguous mixture [...] magnificent but poisonous.” The brilliant purple hue represents Dr. Rappaccini’s experimental science, which is a gothic symbol because it represents unnatural events, and it goes against God’s will that nature should be pure. This shapes the setting to be a dark and evil place. Furthermore, Dr. Rappaccini states that he can no longer tend to the plant because his life may “pay the penalty of approaching it so closely [...]” (Hawthorne 3). This statement is a declaration of how lethal the plants are. Alternatively, the presence of death is another gothic element that creates setting. Death and decay is seen in the insect and reptile that…show more content…
Sleepy Hollow, the mystifying town haunted by a headless horseman, is the new home of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. The town is an “[...] ideal [locale] for entrapping and holding that which can undo a mind like [Ichabod’s]” (Anderson 1). Sleepy Hollow is able to undo Ichabod’s mind because he believes in supernatural tales, including Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” (Irving 3). The locals even believe that the town is “bewitched” (Irving 1). Ichabod’s tendency to believe the ghost stories surrounding Sleepy Hollow allows readers to view the setting as a seemingly evil place. Furthermore, the headless horseman, the “dominant spirit” and “commander-in-chief” of the supernatural occurrences in Sleepy Hollow, is perhaps the main source of evil in the story. The headless horseman is a gothic element because he is a source of terror, and his apparition is that of a decapitated man. A final symbol seen in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is the contrast of light and dark imagery to make the setting evil. There are very few light images in the story; one of the only known images is that of a “whitewashed” church, which symbolizes hope (Irving 13). Darkness prevails over this town; the horse on which the horseman rides is black, the bridge on which Ichabod is tormented is in the shadow of
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