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Rip Van Winkle Essay

1059 words - 5 pages

"Rip Van Winkle" is undoubtedly Washington Irving's chef-d'œuvre, and this story of a

man who falls asleep for twenty years seems to escape the law of time, as it haunts us still with

its mystery. Once the reader realizes that Rip sleeps precisely through the American Revolution,

the story begins to bristle with cultural overlaps and cultural conflicts occur between what was

and what is. Through the vivid picture of Rip Van Winkle, an image of the American colonies

under the rule of Royal England can be seen. By successfully using the method of character

description and psychological analysis, the image of England that Rip character symbolizes

stands out among many other symbols.

Romantic writers have a tendency to incorporate nature as a key factor into their writings.

To Irving, the Kaatskill Mountains have always the pride of American people from the days of

past to the present. At the outset of his story, Washington Irving uses personification to invest

the Kaatskill Mountains with human qualities. The Kaatskill unveils itself as a firm territorial

protector of the village with its “noble height”. Deliberately making the mountains come alive

enables them to become mysterious and unpredictable. In fact, they may even play tricks on

those who venture within its confines. There’s no surprise that those visual characteristics

contribute themselves as a symbol for a safe, undisturbed, and eternal life of Americans before

they suffer the domination of Great Britain.

Irving expressed the kindness of Rip Van Winkle as he was such universal popularity

and he was the great favorite of the village. Every single man and woman in town was fond of

him since he would help anyone who sought his help. His kindness evidenced by the animals

around the village, as Irving wrote not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.

Everyone was so happy and accepted Van Winkle as a simple, good-natured man, except for

his wife. His wife, Dame Van Winkle, never missed a chance to dominate, to be furious with

whatever he did. Irving stated “Morning, noon and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and

everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence”. Dame Van

Winkle would nag Rip to death over his duties so much that he would seek refuge from these

tirades and run away. At that time, he just "shrugged his shoulders...but said nothing to Dame

Van Winkle's lectures.” He was tired of hearing her, yet did nothing to change his behavior or

at least to try to please her. Rip, in this context, engages in a passive resistance seen under the

prerevolutionary colonies.

However, his wife, Dame Van Winkle only got worse and worse; over the years of

matrimony, her sharp tongue was the only edge tool that grew keener with constant use. This

contributed to the unwillingness of Rip Van Winkle to tend his wild farm and the ignorance

of the raising of his own children. Irving drew...

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