Rip's Character and Symbolism in Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle
"Rip Van Winkle" has been a well-known story told throughout time. There is not a doubt that as a child, many of you heard the words of Washington Irving's famous tale of the man who slept for twenty years. Nor can one forget the "elves" that Rip Van Winkle spent the night with in the amphitheater. Like many stories, Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" has been told so many times throughout American history that it has lost its original purpose. The story is now remembered for its fairy tale like quality and its appeal to the children and the young at heart. However, when given the chance to delve into the depths of what Irving was trying to portray, one may see the symbolism that played a hand in Irving's development of Rip's character throughout the tale.
In writing this tale, Irving compares the character of Van Winkle and his wife to that of Great Britain and the Colonies. Rip Van Winkle was Irving's portrayal of the American colonies. Rip's character was described by Irving as a "simple, good-natured fellow; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient, hen-pecked husband." This description fit the ideal of what American colonist wanted to be. The colonist came over to the colonies to gain freedom from the crown of Great Britain, and in doing so, sought the life full of peaceful things. However, still being under the rule of Great Britain many of the colonists felt that they were still being pecked away by the hand of the crown. Although in a new country, they were expected to follow the rules and the ways of their countrymen over seas. However, by coming to the Colonies, these individuals as portrayed in Rip's character, although descendants of the "gallantly, chivalrous" Great Britains, had only received a "little of the marital character of his ancestors." Therefore, falling into line with what the people of the crown thought of their predecessors in America.
Dame Van Winkle was Irving's representation of the country of Great Britain. Her heavy hand represented the power that the British tried to displace onto the American colonies while over sea. The discipline handed out by Dame Van Winkle onto her husband may seem to the onlooker to have made him more carefree to look upon life as something to be lived. The oppression he experienced while at home enables him to go out with a different...