With the end of the American Revolution, came an explosion of politicians hoping to influence the young democracy. At the time various political groups were attempting to fashion America politics into their vision of democracy. It was only natural that literature in the country at the time began showing the influence of this newly created democracy. Born in New York in 1783 and named for the American Revolution hero and first president, Washington Irving grew up a nation engulfed in the democratic passions. An atmosphere of this kind of politics could lend the idea that Irving would satire politics of this time. This satirical writing can be seen in the nature of the historical references and symbolic characters Irving uses in “Rip Van Winkle” where he mockingly compares colonial life under British rule to the young democracy that is the United States of his time.
The first instance of satire is in the name of Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was, according to Wikipedia, the Director-General in power when the British seized New Netherland (who promptly re-named it New York) from the Dutch. The narrator renders a false respect for Stuyvesant in order to point to the reality that he is responsible for the loss of New Netherland to the English. He has set the scene by personifying his narrator as a Dutch descendant named Diedrich Knickerbocker and specifically sets the tale “while the country was yet a Province of Great Britain” (Irving). This juxtaposing of praise for a Dutch ruler with the reality of British rule satires the loss of America by both nations.
Next the story introduces Dame Van Winkle, Rip’s stern wife. She maintains contempt for her husband’s “insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor” (Irving). This tyrannical control over Rip represents the English rule of the colonies. Just as the colonies were mistreated by King George and still remained faithful and attached to the Crown, Rip stands by his demanding wife. Though he is often rebuked and bossed, but he is “in perfect contentment” (Irving). Rip is indifferent to his wife despite her actions—just as it was with relationship between the colonies and the crown.
Representing the Crown-appointed colonial governors is Nicholas Vedder, the owner of the inn. Irving shows this by describing him as dominating the conversations and “opinions of this junto,”—the “perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village”—just as the colonial governors must have dominated the colonies when they imposed the crown’s will (Irving). Rarely speaking, his influence was always present thus mirroring what must have been seen as the role governors took with political affairs and the colonists’ considerable misguided respect for them.
Irving illustrates another aspect of this relationship when Dame Van Winkle comes to the inn to collect her husband. The narrator states that, “Nicholas Vedder himself, scared from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged him...