"He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvelous and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself whimpered by his schoolhouse, and there con over Mather's direful takes, until the gathering dusk of the evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes."
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This passage directly refers to Ichabod and his love of tales; ghostly tales. This is how Ichabod spends his free time. The scarier the read, the more he enjoys it....... and he'd enjoy his stories until the light became so dim that the pages would blur before his eyes. He enjoyed these tales most (ghost stories) because he believed in them.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
As opposed to the context of this whole story, the unveiling of Ichabod's superstiousness and belief in the supernatural precedes his realization that the supernatural world of ghosts truly exists. This passage is a precursor to the appearance of the headless horseman.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
LITERARY AND CULTURAL INFLUENCES
Clearly readable in the lines of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" are influences of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century European cultural movements: a gothic literature featuring supernatural apparitions and a broader Romantic movement characterized by an emphasis on imagination over reason, an attraction to the marvelous, and a longing for the legendary past. Despite claims that U.S. culture should be founded in commonsense rationalism, liberated from Old Worldly superstition, these movements had infiltrated American tastes by the beginning of the nineteenth century. And though initially influenced by urbane British neoclassical writers, Irving to no small degree shared Geoffrey Crayon's Romantic antiquarianism and fascination with supernatural lore. These leanings were drawn out by Irving's immersion in the British literary scene in the 1810s and by the tutelage of
Sir Walter Scott, who had incorporated folkloristic materials into his fictions of the Scottish border. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" also owes a particular debt to Romantic interest in German legends: the story's climactic scene (right down to the pumpkin) was borrowed from a story recorded in Johann Karl August Musäus's Volksmärchen der Deutschen (parts of which had been translated into English in 1791 as Popular Tales of the Germans).
But it would be a mistake to see this story solely as an application of European Romanticism or a grafting of German lore to an American setting. First of all, it is not what might be called a straight ghost story. Indeed, most readers probably find the tale more humorous than horrifying. Irving maintains a suspicion of the imagination and an ironic distance from the ghostly, which has led critics to label his approach to gothic materials as "sportive" or "inconclusive." Without fully disavowing the ghosts, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" suggests the possibility of rational explanation, inviting readers to join in a practical joke on Ichabod Crane in a way that indulged Romantic tastes while also catering to American self-proclaimed pragmatism. Second, while "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" owes something to European models, it also draws from domestic sources. Irving had traveled a good deal in the Hudson Valley (including Tarrytown), and he clearly had at least some knowledge of the Dutch, Native American, African, and British vernacular cultures that contributed to the region's cultural inheritance. Although it is now difficult to trace direct localized sources for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," scholars have located analogs in regional folklore for material in Irving's tales as well as real-life models for Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones.