The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” Symbol Analysis

Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” Symbol Icon

As the town schoolteacher, Ichabod is both admired and mistrusted for his knowledge. Though many of the women in the town consider him a perfect gentleman, some of the farmers who send their children to study under Ichabod are prone to be suspicious of book learning and consider schoolteachers no more than “drones.” Cotton Mather’s book occupies a similarly ambivalent position. On the one hand, it’s an example of Ichabod’s cleverness and knowledge, and he cites it whenever possible (indeed, it’s difficult to tell whether Ichabod reads anything else at all). On the other hand, this is a book of witchcraft—not exactly a chemistry textbook. In that sense, the “History of New England Witchcraft” symbolizes Ichabod’s uncertain position as he “tarries” in Sleepy Hollow—having been educated as a schoolteacher, he has not yet matured enough to leave behind dreams and fantasies and make a real, practical life for himself (something he does do once he leaves Tarry Town behind and becomes a successful lawyer and judge).

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Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” Symbol Timeline in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” appears in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Main Story
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Consumption, Appetite, and Greed Theme Icon
...to house, and the women in particular admire how he’s finished “several books” and knows Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft” by heart. (full context)
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Consumption, Appetite, and Greed Theme Icon
...his time in the region only exaggerates. He often spends his evenings after school “swallowing” Cotton Mather’s stories until it’s too dark to read. Afterwards, as he returns to his lodgings, the... (full context)
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...Hessian of the Hollow, is one of them. Ichabod joins in with stories taken from Cotton Mather or from his past in Connecticut. (full context)
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
War and Battle Theme Icon
...Horseman hadn’t vanished at the last minute. And Ichabod adds his own stories taken from Cotton Mather and his nightly walks around Sleepy Hollow. (full context)
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
War and Battle Theme Icon
...only several pieces of clothing, a razor, and a book of psalm-tunes. After also finding Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft”, an almanac, and a book of fortune-telling among Ichabod’s possessions,... (full context)