Peter Lerangis’ Sleepy Hollow screams romance. It discusses all aspects of romanticism. Lerangis features a romantic hero who seeks truth in abstract issues. His romantic hero shares a strong fascination with supernatural phenomena and an inexplicable resentment towards women. Lerangis contrasts city life with the beauty and romance of nature to create romanticism.
The American hero dominates romanticism in novels. Ichabod’s innocence and youth are reminiscent of a romantic hero. Ichabod’s youthfulness is evident in his arachnophobia. He resorts to childish panic instead of facing his fears as an adult. He panics when he sees a spider in his bedroom. Ichabod, like a child who runs away from fear and screams, resorts to his instincts of youth and primitive when confronted by the tiny spider. Ichabod’s youthful innocence is also displayed through his pursuit of higher truths. He quickly stops contemplating the scars on his hands when, for example, he starts to think about them. He doesn’t allow him to wonder about the source of his scars. “He prefer[s] solving mysteries, so this one [makes] His brain fold darkly intoward like a terrified sowbug,” (14). He moves from trying to learn about his past to hiding the fact as quickly as a child. Ichabod is a hero regardless of any flaws. When confronted with injustices in society, Ichabod rebels against the established authorities. The high constable refuses him to listen, and one such rebellion is Ichabod. Ichabod responds quickly to the order of the high constable, saying, “Stand down, high constable.” Ichabod’s courage and concern for the society is demonstrated by his opposition to authority. Lerangis’s inclusion of supernatural elements and unease about women are just two examples of romantic characteristics. The novel’s supernatural theme is particularly prominent. Ichabod hears the first time that people in Sleepy Hollow tell him that the head of murder victims was “taken by a Headless Horseman”. (23). This “Headless Horseman”, which is also known as the ghost or “a Hessian Mercenary”, was executed by the Americans during their Revolutionary War (24). Even the Horseman ghost is able to control weather with his supernatural powers. “The Horseman’s wind”, “the horseman’s thunderstorm” always suggest a beheading in the novel (136). The supernatural is also tied into the romantic’s fear of women and their symbolic need for domestication. Ichabod combines the supernatural with his anxiety about women when he tells Katrina that “but perhaps there is some witch in you…you’ve bewitched me.” (101). This is not a reflection of Ichabod’s inability to perform under Katrina. This is because Ichabod cannot function when Katrina is present. She leaves [him] without words (33; 31). Ichabod’s quest for higher truth is hindered by his discomfort with women and the supernatural.
Lerangis’ love of the natural world and distrust of cities are just a few of his romantic traits. New York City, as a romantic sees it, is contrasted with the residents’ belief that Wall Street is the end and that New York City’s inhabitants “seldom venture North into the farmlands or swamps”. The romantic author’s main concern is this idea of being restricted. The distrust that cities have is not restricted to their confinement. New York City also exemplifies the notion that “distance death [hold] no shock value” or “death [is] daily” (3). This image, which depicts a cruel and inhumane metropolis, appeals directly towards the sense of Pathos. It incites concern and hopes for a solution. The city’s juxtaposition by nature offers a solution. Nature is the best symbol of freedom. The novel’s bird of choice is the cardinal. This bright red bird can fly without being held back by injustices and constraints. Ichabod keeps a captive cardinal as a pet in the town. But before leaving for Sleepy Hollow he “watches” as the bird’s fiery red plumage gets consumed by the rising Sun (14). This is the end of Ichabod’s city cage, and the beginning a new chapter. Katrina later mentions this cardinal to Ichabod when she says that she would like to see a calmer one but is unable to cage him (60). This announcement reaffirms the belief that nature is without limitations and shouldn’t be held captive for any short time. The symbolic freedom enjoyed by the cardinal is temporary. Ichabod is talking about the “Witch of the Western Woods” when she opens her hand and “a dead birds spill[s] out-a bird cardinal” (31, 73). Ichabod reacts to the annihilation and terror by “stepping back in horror”. This distrust of civilization and love for nature is what leads Ichabod into Sleepy Hollow. In the end, nature triumphs over all the evils in the city with its “snow falling gently” (149).