"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
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...