In Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the characters of Ichabod Crane and Brom Van Brunt seem almost diametrically opposite. The contrast between them is shaped by their appearance, social status, and behavior. Still, there are a lot of commonalities in their motivations, which expand the characterizations of the two heroes. This combination of obvious contrast and hidden similarities paints Ichabod Crane and Brom Van Brunt as distorted reflections of each other.
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The most apparent differences between the two characters come from their physical appearances, social status, and entourage. Crane’s description paints him as somewhat weak and often associates him with feminine traits, placing him in the company of women and children. Brom Van Brunt is depicted as traditionally masculine, physically strong, and surrounded by faithful male companions. Their backgrounds and social statuses offset this contrast. While Crane has the advantage of being educated and the disadvantage of being poor, Brom is given the opposite traits. These intrinsic differences shape the contrast between the characters and establish their opposition.
While these two men interact with others in different tones, their motivations reveal certain similarities between the characters. Crane’s manner is quiet and delicate, and Brom is laud, assertive, and even aggressive. Although Crane and Brom use very different communication styles, they seem to have very similar motivations. Both characters exhibit the need for validation from other people. Due to the two characters’ diverse backgrounds and social statuses, their similar motivations move them to adopt utterly different behavior styles.
Crane and Brom share a common goal – the hand of Katrina Van Tassel. The ways they approach this goal are, naturally, very different. Brom is almost explicit in his intentions, while Crane adopts a quiet and subtle manner. Their motivations also seem to contrast: while Crane is excited by the prospect of wealth, Brom appears to be moved by genuine feelings. However, the style of courting adopted by these men is shaped not by their feelings towards Katrina but by their competitors. Brom makes his advances obvious so that any competition would retreat. Crane must maintain his delicate manner to avoid confrontation with Brom. Yet again, the drastically different behaviors of the two characters have the same underlining.
It is essential to address how the two characters see each other. Despite Brom being a formidable rival, Crane does not renounce his intentions. Brom, however, seems to be discouraged by the competition, as his visits to Katrina become scarce. This difference is the most meaningful– the way they act when faced with opposition. Furthermore, Crane’s approach to rivalry forces Brom to change his behavior, settling for practical jokes as his only weapon. The rivalry between the characters highlights their differences – while reaching for the same goal, they use different methods to different degrees of success.
Personally, I enjoy the stories of rivalry, especially when well-written, deep characters elevate them. When listening to or watching fiction and drama, I prefer stories with highly contrasting characters. I particularly appreciate when authors create drastically different characters but still manage to make all of them relatable. Many modern works of fiction pride themselves on including diverse characters whose differences do not clash and lead to engaging conflicts. I am more interested in stories that highlight the heroes’ different backgrounds and social statuses and explore the consequences of these differences. Such works provide me with phenomenal entertainment and spark the search for commonalities between opposing heroes. Ultimately, the same motivations shared by contrasted characters remind me of the fundamental human nature that we all share.