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[Detail] United States Capitol [ca 1846]

Ichabod Crane

Authors often choose names for their characters that reinforce certain qualities about them. When Washington Irving wrote his classic tale, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," he named the protagonist, terrorized by the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane. This collection, however, contains a portrait of the real Ichabod Crane, a U.S. Army colonel who Irving met when the soldier was stationed in Sackett's Harbor, New York during the War of 1812.

  • How does the portrait of the real Ichabod Crane compare to the author's description of his protagonist?
  • When you hear the name, "Ichabod Crane," what types of qualities do you imagine this person possessing? Why?
  • Do you think that these qualities can be attributed to the person in the portrait, to Irving's character, or to Walt Disney's portrayal of the protagonist?
  • Do you think that the character would be different if his name was "John Smith" or "Thomas Wintergreen"?
  • How does the effect of a name compare to the influence of a person's appearance?
  • What is the difference between the ways that characters are developed in fiction and in dramatic arts such as theater or film?
  • What types of techniques are used to introduce a character?
  • When is it necessary to introduce the name of a character to further the plot?
  • When is it necessary to introduce the name of a character to develop the character?
  • Why do you think that Irving used the name of a real person?
  • What qualities do you think of in regard to your own name? Why?