The Power Of Characters In Gothic Literature
Gothic Literature in the nineteenth century was perhaps the most influential of any literary era. With many major Gothic novels such as: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and most notably, Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. These many famous works have made clear that Gothic Literature is the most famous influential and popular literary era. In the early 1800?s, Washington Irving wrote one of the most famous works written in the Gothic era. Sleepy Hollow was found among the pages of the late authors collection of works and was published three years later in 1820. The story takes place in a small New York State town known as Sleepy Hollow. The town is haunted by the eerie presence of the notorious Headless Horseman. The protagonist of the story is known as Ichabod Crane, a very eccentric scientist who was stationed in Sleepy Hollow after being exiled from his town in Northern Connecticut. Throughout the Gothic era the characters have been most important to the story. The characters are written in a way that the reader can relate to them and make them feel like they are actually in the story. The characters of the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane are two examples of characters that define the Gothic Literary era.
In Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, the Antagonist is known as the Headless Horseman, a paranormal being that terrorizes the town and beheading all of those who oppose him “…the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.” (Irving) His gruesome and tragic death dates back the American Revolution. According to Irving’s story a cannonball dismembered his head. The legend tells that every night since that day the Headless Horseman goes out in search of his head. According to Gothic literature criteria, a gothic novel must contain a paranormal theme. The Headless Horseman fits the profile of a gothic antagonist. The fictional character has long lived beyond the novel of Sleepy Hollow. For nearly Two Hundred years, since the books first publication, the Headless Horseman has appeared in many other novels, films and other forms of media. The idea of a “Headless” bad-guy has tickled the minds of many Science-Fiction Authors and Hollywood producers.
The Gothic Literary era slowly began appearing at the end of the 18th Century and was launched into enormous success and popularity. A gothic novel has to meet certain criteria in order to be considered a Gothic Novel. To start a Gothic novel must contain a paranormal or eerie theme throughout the entire story and not just in the characters. The theme must be present throughout every aspect of the story including plot, theme, setting and characters. All of these aspects are present throughout the novel. To start, the town in called Sleepy Hollow and the setting is described as dark and dingy and the sky is always gray and foggy. The sun never shines in Sleepy Hollow and from these few examples it is evident that the novel specifically follows the guidelines of a Gothic Novel. Besides the paranormal presence throughout the story, there is also a love story that parallels the paranormal presence. In most cases the love connection between two main characters fails due to a death or tragic accident.
The protagonist, so to speak, n the Novel is known as Icabod Crane, an eccentric scientist who was banished from his town of work in Northern Connecticut and forced to reside in the town of Sleepy Hollow. While in Sleepy Hollow, Crane is brought to light on the story of the headless horseman. He also falls in love for one of the towns citizens, a lovely lady named Katrina Van Tassel, but to Cranes misfortune, she is engaged to a sinister man named Brom Van Brut, or otherwise known as “Brom Bones”. Ichabod Crane is the main character of the story and his part in the story brings together the rest of the elements of a proper Gothic Romance novel. The greatest mystery of this novel is the fact that the death of Ichabod’s death is never told. According to the story “Crane is chased over the bridge, past the old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow” (Irving). He is never mentioned again in the story and his death forever remains a mystery to the world of literature. Irving, later on does create a rumor within the story that Crane was taken a way by the Headless Horseman and beheaded. “Ichabod was horrorstruck on perceiving he was headless” (Grissom) the character of Ichabod Crane will be forever immortalized I the pages of Sleepy Hollow, the greatest Gothic novel ever written.
In conclusion, Gothic literature was perhaps the most influential literary era of any other era. The power of this genre of literature has had the most profound effect on the world of literature than any other literary era has had. The characters of Ichabod Crane and the Headless horseman are just two prominent examples of characters that will forever be remembered as characters of a Gothic romance novel. Washington Irving’s novel Sleepy Hollow created precedence for all other Gothic novels that came after his. His novel, found among a pile of notes in his dresser drawer, was not published until many years after he wrote it and if it had never been found then perhaps the classic American Gothic novel would have remained unknown and never had become what it is today. Sleepy Hollow, the classic Gothic novel contains all the elements of a classic Gothic novel, the paranormal element of the Headless Horseman and the love story between two main characters, which we see with Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel. Washington Irving’s Classic American novel will be told countless more times for countless generations and will still be revered as a classic American novel.
Wells, HG. “The Time Machine”.
Bronte, Emily. “Wuthering Heights”
Washington, Irving. “Sleepy Hollow”