Fifteen years separate Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.” The two share an eerie connection because of the trepidation the two protagonists endure throughout the story. The style of writing between the two is not similar because of the different literary elements they choose to exploit. Irving’s “Sleepy Hollow” chronicles Ichabod Crane’s failed courtship of Katrina Van Tassel as well as his obsession over the legend of the Headless Horseman. Hawthorne’s story follows the spiritual journey of the protagonist, Young Goodman Brown, through the woods of Puritan New England where he looses his religious faith. However, Hawthorne’s work with “Young Goodman Brown” is of higher quality than Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” because Hawthorne succeeds in exploiting symbols, developing characters, and incorporating worthwhile themes.
Hawthorne incorporates symbols into his story in a powerful way, however Irving’s symbols are not equally powerful. Hawthorne uses Faith’s pink ribbon to symbolize her purity. The ribbon is fitting because the color pink is associated with virginity and purity. The color is commonly worn by young girls when they are young and pure. The ribbon allows the audience to assume that Faith, like her name, is a religious young woman who lives her life by the holy bible. The action of the ribbon can even change it’s symbolism. While Brown is in the woods he sees Faith’s pink ribbon soar through the sky, symbolizing her loss of purity and entrance into the devil’s dominion. The second powerful symbol that Hawthorne incorporates is the staff that the old man offers Brown in the woods. The staff symbolizes Brown’s temptation of evil, an allusion to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The old man is in fact the Devil tempting Brown to enter his realm. Both Eve and Brown are placed in a tempting situation because of their curiosity and eventually surrender to their temptation. Brown’s acceptance goes against his Puritan beliefs but also leads him to question the people around him because the old man/devil told him, “Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans” (1290). This statement leads to Brown thinking that the old man has been around the community forever and questions if all he has ever learned in his past has been the teachings of the devil.
Irving’s use of symbolism is not as extensive as Hawthorne’s because it does not posses rich history and deep connotation. Irving uses food to symbolize Ichabod’s desire for Katrina by describing her as a “tempting morsel” (970). Even tough it is symbolism, it is far to tenuous to stand next to Hawthorne’s use of symbolism. Irving does not allude to the bible, and does not provide his symbols with meaning through their actions.
Irving fails to provide his characters with a voice like Hawthorne does. Hawthorne develops his...