Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and Thanatopsis by William Bryant: the Ideas of Early American Romanticism and Transcendentalism
In the two works, “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving and “Thanatopsis” by William Bryant, nature and mankind are two of the principal subjects, like many other works created during the romantic period. In both works, nature and mankind’s desire to be in communion with one another due to nature’s attracting aesthetics of romanticism; the sublime, beautiful and picturesque. The sublime evokes a sense of awe and wonder and is characterized by sharp edges and dark scenery, while the beautiful evokes a calming sensation and is characterized by soft edges and scenery.
In Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” Rip, or mankind desires to be in and connect with nature due to its power and beauty. When Rip speaks of a mountain range, the Kaaatskil mountains, he describes them as “swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country” and “when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of grey vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory” (Irving 1004). Here, nature is personified when Irving illustrates them having a “noble height,” “lording” and wearing a “hood” and a “crown of glory”. These all describe something inhuman having human attributes, revealing Rip’s personal, deep connection to nature. The implications behind “noble,” “lording” and “crown” all suggest royalty of some type. This reveals the mighty power and importance of nature to Rip. Irving paints a picture of what Rip saw when “he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild, lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene” (Irving 1008). The physical descriptions of “lonely,” “shagged, and “fragments from the impending cliffs” are all aspects of The Sublime; having a rough, sharp, or varied appearance. This aesthetic is known to evoke fascination and awe from the viewer and we can imply this for Rip. Also, Rip’s appreciation for the beauty of nature is shown when Irving reveals how he “lay musing” for a long while.
William Bryant’s poem, “Thanatopsis,” is told in part from the perspective of nature, a woman, and highlights her desire to be in loving communion with mankind. In the opening line of the Poem, Bryant states “to him who in the love of nature / holds communion with her visible forms, she speaks / a various language” (Bryant 1-3). Here, Bryant uses “her” to describe nature as she “speaks,” personifying the force as a woman. In the next lines Bryant discloses nature’s response to man:
For (mans) gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, (Bryant 3-15)
When mankind is in his “gayer hours,” gay meaning happy, nature replies with “a voice of gladness, and a smile”. In addition, when mankind is experiencing his “darker musings,” or is in a state of depression, she “glides (in)” and “steals away their sharpness,” sharpness in this context meaning intensity. This displays her loving and caring heart for mankind. Bryant describes “sad images” of “stern agony” and “breathless darkness” making man “grow sick at heart”. All these phrases imply human suffering. In response to these, nature wishes mankind would “go forth, under the open sky and list to Nature’s teachings”. Here, “list” means to listen, but nature is not simply commanding men to listen to nature, but to also go out and physically be with nature as she can reduce suffering with her beauty.
Rip Van Winkle: the Symbolism of the Story
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving is an anti-feminist text because of the symbolism between the Dame and Britain, and her unimportance as a character.
In the story, Rip Van Winkle falls asleep for 20 years and misses the American Revolution. The Revolution is arguably the most important event in our nation’s history. The Dame is symbolic of Britain’s monarch, and Rip represents the colonists who seek freedom from their control. “He was fain to draw off his forces and to take to the outside of the house-the only side which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband” (pg. 7). This quote shows the leash Rip’s wife has on him, and how he is left to escape into nature for consolation. This is problematic because the wife was just an annoyance to Rip, while Britain completely dictated the colonists’ lives. This included making them house soldiers, taking over their finances, forcing several taxes, etc. It is backward to think that the Dame is in any way similar to this despotism.
The wife of Rip Van Winkle is portrayed as an overpowering nag whose role is the villain in the story. Her character is irrelevant to the plot other than to prove the point that Rip was a victim. When in reality he was a lazy, unmotivated, and unconnected husband. We are given little insight into what their relationship is like from her perspective because her voice is viewed as unimportant.
Irving pushes the backward idea that anything wives do is complaining, and nothing is ever the husband’s fault. He couldn’t even be bothered to give the wife a name, as she is only referred to as the Dame of Rip. This supports the misconception that all a woman is a wife and not an individual. Once the Dame dies, her death is looked at as a positive, getting completely disrespected and made a mockery of. “There was a drop of comfort, at least in this intelligence” (pg. 73). Irving portrays her death as solacing, a beacon of light for Rip.
The only perk Rip could think of looking back on his wife was her house making. Irving, whether he was aware or not, completely disrespected the role of a wife. A marriage is a two-person job, and putting all of the blame on one individual is wrong no matter who it is. Her unimportance to the story shows how women are still seen as background noise, something to poke fun at.
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving furthers misogynistic ideas due to the meaning behind the Dame and Britain, and her roles insignificance in the story.
Rip Van Winkle and His Coming Back in 20 Years
In this story, the author provides the United States of America an overall read on a lifetime of a village within the Catskill mountains space. Rip Van Winkle is the central character of this story. Irving Washington builds Rip with a quite strange characteristic that produces individuals laborious to know. He’s nice and sorts within the eyes of the villages. He’s not a lazy fellow; he’s unafraid of toil, he’s continually able to assist everybody in his village however his own. Actually, he’s very do-nothing to his family and in his wife’s eyes, he’s the lazy and useless man.
The story becomes additionally fascinating as from his wakening once a mythically long sleep. Everything in his village has been modified as he comes back. He doesn’t acknowledge something still as nobody acknowledges him. So, what is going on to him and his village? And does one assume that Rip very spends such an extended sleep? Really, through the character of Rip Van Winkle, the author likes to convey to the readers what has been modified once the yank obtaining freelance. we are able to feel that ever-changing could be a phenomenon ‘change of season, amendment of weather, each hour of on a daily basis have one thing ever-changing. “The author uses the image of the village here as a representative for individuals living within the society and Rip is for a few people that folks that those who} don’t amendment consequently or who don’t acknowledge and catch up the ever-changing of a brand-new life. With some individuals, who lived before the revolution, area unit self-satisfied ones. They fairly often sit along talking concerning nothing, concerning what happened in many months agene however they become the eager those who area unit with full energy in participating within the social business.
Changing is important for life and ever-changing is for a much better life. Everything is that this universe is changing; nature, atmosphere, society…and people got to amendment consequently. However, Rip doesn’t amend the least bit. The image of an extended night sleep of Rip that’s through twenty years reflects the speech of social ever-changing and Rip gets nothing through such an extended time of fixing. This can be an energetic example for those who keep maintaining within the ever-changing society. He doesn’t amendment and after all, he cannot catch up the new and it’s actually that he is left behind the time. Obviously, if one who doesn’t amend per the ever-changing of the society are forgotten and nobody will acknowledge him, and he appears to belong to a different world. He is lost.
Changing of the village as delineated within the story appears an amendment of the era, a brand-new culture, a brand-new form of government. Individual’s area unit on going ever-changing from the autarchy to the Democracy, they’re obtaining and adapting a brand-new culture.
Rip Van Winkle: a Brief Story of the American Dream
In the case of Rip Van Winkle, the narration is a myth within a myth. Irving mentions that he found the story among the writings of a Diedrich Knickerbocker who is indeed a fictional character. Irving wrote the story at a period in which Romantic writers were looking at the past to find myths, fables, and other narratives to attach them to their national identity. The undeniable fact that new nations need their own history, makes the writers create one for their people, and again in the case of American identity, Irving was the first among the many who tried a hand in writing a myth which concerns contemporary issues of the time, whether politically speaking or culturally. The most significant concept in Rip Van Winkle is demonstrating the notion of the American dream, years preceding the coinage of the term in the 20th century. A brief history of the American dream and its resemblances throughout the story will provide functional insight into the subject.
Before the main discussion on the American dream, it proves essential to scrutinize the text to determine what does the characters symbolize. The story is narrated between the final years of the British monarchy and the early republic era, then it is no wonder that the characters are demonstrating the conditions of the period. Huang interprets in his Rip Van Winkle: an Allegory of the American Revolution that Rip is in all likelihood, a representation of American condition under British sovereignty. Dame Van Winkle, the antagonist of the story, on the other side represents British colonies which were ruling America. Irving through his protagonist demonstrates the struggle of the Americans to extricate themselves and shape their own identity on the very soil of theirs. To further explain, Dame Van Winkle would nag and humiliate Rip, the same goes for the attitude of the British toward the American people during the colonizing period (Huang 1). They used to address the Americans as idle and indolent people. This attitude might have not been fallacious, as Irving portrays Rip as a slothful character, but solely to his own affairs which ultimately would benefit his wife, symbolically speaking. Irving describes Rip’s properties as “His fences were continually falling to pieces … Nothing ever grew well in his fields” (Irving 10). On the contrary, Rip was a fancy character among other “good wives” of the village. He shows an insatiable appetence to help others. The root of this perspective among the Americans might back to the fact that they simply would not agree that the British take advantage of their labor and profit their drudgery
Soon after the revolution, Rip, coming back from his 20-year sleep, encounters the same people, but with an enormous shift in their attitude toward politics and life’s circumstances. The community no longer demonstrates any sign of idleness or dawdling. The dynamic condition of the village signifies the true nature of the Americans which has burgeoned after the revolution and gaining their independence.
Washington Irving and His Rip Van Winkle
“Rip Van Winkle” is a fairytale written by Washington Irving. The story is narrated by Diedrich Knickerbocker who is a comical fictional character in which Irving submitted a lot of his work. Another fictional character created by Irving was named Geoffrey Crayon. The story of “Rip Van Winkle” was published in “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon” and has become very famous. This is a story of a man named Rip Van Winkle, his wife that found fault with everything he did, and his adventures in the Catskills Mountains.
Rip Van Winkle was a peaceful man, loved by his neighbors however he was lazy and was unable to support his family because of this. He could not support his wife or his daughter. He was married to Dame Van Winkle. She was not very happy with him and she would follow him into the town and scream insults at him in front of all the townspeople. Everyone else in their neighborhood adored him, unlike his wife. He would often grow tired of her screaming and yelling at him, so he would often go meet up with his buddies to gather and gossip at a club. He was not able to escape her as she would come to the club and yell at his friends for encouraging his laziness. After the years go by, since his wife had driven all his other friends away, his only friend he had left was a dog, who was terribly abused by his wife also. His only escape was trips to the woods.
Rip Van Winkle makes a hike into the Catskills Mountains one day, along with his dog, named Wolf, and they wander to the highest point of one of the mountains. This was a long climb and he is very tired and fatigued. The sun is setting and being delirious still from his fatigue, he notices a weird man who wants him to help carry a keg high up the mountain. They run into more men who are bowling and having a good old time. Van Winkle is offered some refreshments from the keg and the refreshments are so delicious that he continues to drink more and more till he passes out drunk.
The next morning, as he wakes up, he is worried about what his wife will have to say since he did not make it home the night before. He grabs his gun and notices that the gun is all rusty and somehow not his. He is also very stiff from laying down for so long however he does not realize that he has slept for twenty years. He notices that his dog is missing also. He realizes that everyone has changed in his village once he returns home. His daughter is grown up and married, his wife is dead, and he slept through the Revolutionary War and it does not seem to phase Van Winkle. He is happier than he has ever been as he was expecting to never hear the end of it from Dame Van Winkle, however, she is not there to berate him any longer and his laziness seems to be socially acceptable since he is twenty years older.
His night is the woods sounds like a great escape fantasy from a life that was barely tolerable due to his wife. Even though he slept through a huge change in history, he could care less, because he is so grateful to be freed from his duties as a husband, and as a supporter.
Rip Van Winkle as a Personal Biography of Washington Irving
Washington Irving: Seen Through Rip Van Winkle’s Eyes
“Rip Van Winkle” is a fictional American short story, written by Washington Irving under the pseudonym of ‘Diedrich Knickerbocker.’ Perhaps the pseudonym was a product of Irving wanting to maintain his privacy and avoid the societal shame of pursuing an ‘artistic’ career; or, perhaps, the name was an inside joke between Irving and those who knew him. Throughout the short story, we can see Irving’s personality showing through the titular character, Rip. Irving’s own ego, and almost playful confidence, are read in Rip’s character. However, just as the character personifies some of Irving’s more childish attributes, Rip also represents Irving’s own shortcomings and apprehensions. While the story is, by no means, an autobiographical piece, one cannot deny the parallels made throughout the story, whether they were intentional on Irving’s part or not.
To summarize Irving’s masterpiece, “Rip Van Winkle,” one could start by saying that Rip is written an attractive and lively man; well-liked and willing to do anything for the people around him, yet he remains incapable of helping himself or working on his own farm and preforming his patriarchal duties. Rip is described as escaping from family duty under the pretense of feeling as if his work on the puny farm would be futile, no matter how hard he works. Faithful to Irving’s own animosity towards marriage, Rip is written as an unhappily married man. Describing him as ‘henpecked’ –subject to persistent nagging or domination, the wife being the ‘pecker’ and the husband being the ‘pecked’ – we read Rip as trying to be a classic patriarch in a matriarch-dominated environment. However, Rip’s lazy nature impede his journey to fulfilling his own views on ‘ultimate masculinity,’ per se. After disappearing into the woods for twenty years, in search of his stolen possessions and lost dog, Rip finally returns home. After one night in the woods, growing hungry and nervous, Rip decides to return home. As he walks through town, sensing that something is different, Rip discovers that he is confused, he wasn’t in the woods for one evening, rather he was there for twenty years! Rip is now old, fashioning a long, grey beard, and wandering through town, looking for any familiar signs of his old life when he comes across his daughter, and is caught up on the last twenty years. At first, no one believes him; a strange, confused man claims the impossible has happened, believing that the past twenty years for the town seemed as one singular night for him. But after an old member of the village confirms that he is, indeed, Rip Van Winkle, Rip becomes the beloved town patriarch he always longed to be. He becomes the wise voice of the town, the voice of a country before the war. He settles back into his routine, living with his now married daughter, and free from his, now, late wife. Rip’s tale ends with the titular character being a free man, and a legend in his own right. As we analyze this story, we can find similarities between the fictional Rip and his creator, Washington Irving.
Irving, himself, was a bit of a rebel in his own right. Born in New York City in 1783, Irving was named after George Washington, himself, tying him to the classic ‘hero’ image from birth. He didn’t necessarily honor his family name by becoming a writer. From our studies, we understand that Irving faced challenges in the culture of his time. Value was not given to literary pursuits, but to masculine attributes, instead. Not only did his parents not support him, but the financial benefit of being a writer in the 1820s was, essentially, non-existent. Due to the U.S. not having any copyright laws, it was cheaper to make British copies than paying U.S authors. This caused fictional writings to be a rare commodity during the Jacksonian Era Irving lived through. He was a privately educated man, writing under pseudonyms from an early age. Initially using the name Jonathan Oldstyle, he wrote essays for the Morning Chronicle. While his parents didn’t necessarily support his pursuits, the Morning Chronicle was edited by Irving’s older brother, Peter. While in school, Irving was not a diligent student. Although he was a writer in his heart, Irving did attempt to pursue a career that would make his family proud: the practice of law. He barely passed the bar exam in New York in 1806. He went on to indulge in his creative impulses, collaborating with a friend, James Kirke Paulding, as well as Irving’s eldest brother, William. They teamed up to produce and publish a periodical on humorous essays, titled Salamagundi. He ultimately found a job as editor of Analectic Magazine. Furthermore, he participated in the military efforts during the War of 1812. Irving was a great supporter of literary pursuits and the legacy he left behind supports this. He is ultimately considered the first true American writer, and used his legislative knowledge to push for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.
Due to the unique challenges Irving faced as a pioneer in American fictional prose, his style is equally unique and fascinating to analyze. According to Jeffrey Rubin-Dorsky, Irving suffered from intense personal trauma, as explained by the following quote from Dorsky’s research on Irving and his fictional work:
… plagued by deep personal problems, Irving saw that as he adopted the form he could simultaneously adapt it to his own psychological purposes. Although consecutive losses of loved ones and the failure of the family business traumatized him, they were also responsible for the personal resonance of his sketch, … his famous miscellany were attempts at self-discovery and evaluation, taking for their substance his actual physical and emotional experiences…
In other words, Irving was one of the early fictional authors to successfully use his own personal tragedies and psychological traumas in his favor. He was able to direct his feelings of anxiety and such into his work, producing powerful pieces of fiction such as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and, of course, “Rip Van Winkle.” With this information, one could justly conclude that Irving’s style opened the door for American writers, like Edgar Allen Poe, to use their damaged psyche as material for their art. This phenomenon can also be attributed to the different pseudonyms Irving adopts throughout his career as a writer. He is hiding his identity, yet finding a way to express his own reflections on life, politics, family, etc. According to Rubin-Dorsky, one of Irving’s pseudonyms, like Geoffrey Crayon or Diedrich Knickerbocker, allowed Irving to document his own emotions within a narrative framework, often mirroring his own experiences, thoughts and beliefs through a ‘safety-net’ of sorts.
The quick summary above on Washington Irving’s life, career, and writing style are important to keep in mind when reading his stories. In this case, we will be focusing on of “Rip Van Winkle.” Rip is introduced to the reader with a deliciously descriptive presentation of Rip’s home, Catskill Mountains. Here, we immediately isolate the characteristics of American Romanticism. Irving’s almost flowery writing style sets the tone for this folky tale of a Dutch legend, Rip Van Winkle. We can tell that Irving put much thought and passion into his word choice. Take the following sentence, for example: “At the foot of these fairy mountains the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape.” Note the descriptive language in the sentence; we can clearly project an image of these magical mountains, housing a smoky haze at its base, due to the village below; we can see in the distance the promise of greenery and pastoral beauty. And the story is littered with sentences like this, making it no secret that Irving had an affinity for a romantic description of the pastoral and legendary, alike.
Perhaps just as telling as his language choice, the character of Rip and his development throughout the story, too, serve as a tell-all about Irving and his inner self. Rip is a well-like member of his town, always putting others and their requests above his own responsibilities at home. He is victimized by the narrator, as it is emphasized that he is suffering from the nagging of his wife and the fruitless bounty of his land. No matter how hard he works, according to the tale, Rip considers it useless and futile to work on his farm, claiming it to be “the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country.” This ‘too-hard-to-try” attitude can be considered childish and immature on Rip’s part. While we don’t necessarily attribute these characteristics with Irving, it could be possible that Irving was showing a small part of himself through Rip’s personality. After all, we are our own worst critic; it is then fair to say that Irving might be poking fun at himself, in a way, for not being a very good student and his close-call with the bar exam. This is not Rip’s only flaw, however. He is also described as “meek” in spirit, showing cowardice in the face of danger, like when he is robbed by natives. This ‘meekness’ is not Rip’s fault, per the text. Just like he creates excuses for the barren land he can’t possibly work on, and the home and family duties he can’t possibly fulfill, his impressionability and underwhelming confidence can be blamed on his nagging wife. Matrimony is a noteworthy theme in the story, and is painted in a negative light.
The reader of “Rip Van Winkle” never gets to meet the nagging wife described throughout the story. However, she is mentioned in passing many times, and always in a negative light. The narrator even explains how Rip must often seek refuge from her and her henpecking. Observe the following quote from our subject piece – pay close attention to the language choice, again – “For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of sages, philosophers and other idle personages of the village …” Take note of the phrases used, like ‘driven from home’ and the escapist quality of Rip seeking happiness and comfort in others, away from his home and family – home and family being the usual place in which one finds solace. We might say that this detail of the short story might be reflective of Irving and his own views on marriage. Sources confirm that after the death of his fiancé, Matilda Hoffmann, Irving never became engaged again and never married. Perhaps this tragedy in Irving’s romantic life was treated therapeutically by his writing of an extremely dislikable character, Dame Van Winkle, belittling the marital institution he would never participate in. Whatever his motivation, it is clear from his writing that Irving never planned to get married again and had no problem exposing the problems of marital relations, however one-sided they may be.
An interesting point to make, as we move forward in our analysis of Irving and “Rip Van Winkle,” is the theme of masculinity and patriarchal power in the self and in the community. An important character to keep in mind is Nicholas Vedder, a confirmed patriarch in Rip’s village. Nicholas is the landlord of the inn Rip and his colleagues meet at, when Rip wants to escape his wife and own patriarchal duties at home. Nicholas is a constant in the village; it is even mentioned that “the neighbors could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial.” He had a great following in the village of people who ‘perfectly understood him’ and essentially held on to his every word. Even as Nicholas is described as a man of few words, his followers could tell his opinion through his gestures while smoking from his pipe. So important is Nicholas Vedder and the meetings at his inn, that when Rip’s wife takes away his freedom to engage in this activity, we come to the turning point of the story.
“Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods.” This quote from the story marks the shift in Rip’s tale. Here, the narrator is telling us that Rip has reached his breaking point, after his wife forbids him from going to the inn and joining in the communal activity of meeting there and discussing gossip amongst colleagues. In order to maintain some sense of masculinity and freedom, Rip convinces himself that the ‘manliest’ route to pursue would be to take his dog, named Wolf, and his gun into the woods and living off the land for a while. While Rip would like to believe that this is the beginning of personal growth – an act of defiance against his controlling wife – it is still uniquely immature and irresponsible for a father and husband to abandon his family indefinitely, going off to seek some sort of self-fulfillment. Not to mention that this escape from his responsibilities does not work out the way he hoped. Even after twenty years (although, it felt like one night to Rip), he remains in constant fear of his wife, fearing that she mill show up and he will again hear “the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle.” Here we can again draw a parallel between Rip and Irving. We can recall that Irving’s profession as a writer was not a well-respected career during his lifetime. Perhaps these feelings of not being professional enough, or respected enough by his society, encouraged Irving to write about a man in a similar position; also trapped in a non-nurturing environment. Irving, like Rip, wanted to be successful and felt as though he deserved the title of a capable gentleman, but existed in a society in which his particular personality and set of skills were not deemed respectable. As popular as Rip may be considered in his village, he is still not the ‘alpha-male’ he longs to be. To understand how Rip’s only sources of approval is not a reliable one, we must further dissect the characters in his tale, and the personal message Irving may be trying to send as the author.
While Rip is well-liked by the town, it is almost exclusively by children and his dog, Wolf. What can be said about a man who’s actions are praised, exclusively, by children and dogs? It can be observed that Rip, like Irving, did not have support from the authoritative figures in his life. Recurring themes in Rip’s story are, again, evident here: immaturity and escapism. Rip is looking for any sort of approval, so much so that it is enough for a grown man to feel the praise of children, and be satisfied with this as a valid form of approval for his way of life. Escapism is also a present theme; the presence of children, in this context, can project feelings of whimsical expression and a childish understanding of what it is to be a village patriarch and respected ‘man,’ in the traditional sense. Taking into consideration what we understand about Irving, we can infer that perhaps Irving is making a satirical comment here. By choosing to be a writer in his era, Irving failed to honor his family with a sensible career to provide for himself and his family. By creating a character who is only capable of receiving approval from naïve children, perhaps this Irving is telling the reader that the entire concept of traditional masculinity is childish, from his unique stand point. To simplify, Rip going off into the woods alone, with his dog and his gun in hand, is the manliest action to take, from Rip’s viewpoint. However, Irving pokes holes in this theory, subtly telling his audience that Rip is an untrustworthy source when studying how to be an ‘alpha male’. The topic of approval from a higher power is repeated throughout the story, from Nicholas Vedder, to Peter Vanderdonk – two important men when it comes to Rip and his patriarchal hierarchy.
Nicholas Vedder, as we’ve discussed, is a village patriarch in Catskill Mountains, and we get the sense that he may be someone Rip admires. The way that Nicholas is painted in the story is important when understanding why he could be considered one of Rip’s role models. To someone like Rip, seeking approval and attempting to achieve his definition of masculinity, Nicholas Vedder would be a great role model. Nicholas is an important figure in the village, per the text. He is deemed as one of the village patriarchs and is always present and attentive at the inn meetings he hosts. Not only does Nicholas’ character serve as a goal, of sorts, to Rip, but he is also used to emphasize Rip’s lack of masculinity and importance. This point is supported by the presence and actions of another character in the story, Peter Vanderdonk. Peter appears after Rip’s twenty-year sojourn into the woods. He is brought in to confirm that Rip is who he claims to be. We can take the following text into consideration, to understand how Peter’s presence in the story further serves to discredit Rip as a trustworthy man:
It was determined, however to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk… He was a descendant of the historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood… He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner.
Once again, Rip is emasculated, in a way, when his own daughter and the village inhabitants do not take him at his word. He is told that his wife has passed, and is jubilated enough to tell his story and explain that he is, in fact, Rip Van Winkle. While his tale is a fantastic one and admittedly hard to believe, it is no coincidence that another man, with much more credentials than Rip, and obviously, a high member of society in the village, was sought out to ‘approve’ Rip and confirm that he can be welcomed back into the village. As far as understand these events from Irving’s point of view, we can say that he just wanted to emphasize the point that Rip is not in the hierarchy of patriarch in his village, or perhaps Nicholas and Peter are surrogates for Irving’s own father.
Irving’s own father was a ‘man’s man.’ Having served in the revolutionary war, it is understandable that he was not elated to discover one of his sons had decided to be an artist. Not only did his youngest son not go to college, but he gave up a career in law when his publications began to take off. Irving, as a writer, could understandably choose to create a character in “Rip Van Winkle” who served the traditional “father” or “patriarch” role to an entire village. Not to mention that Rip is subject to both, Nicholas’ and Peter’s approval, as Irving was subject to his father’s. The final point to make here would be, although both Rip and Irving fulfilled their dreams of patriarchal hierarchy and a successful career, respectively, it can be considered that this was only a superficial triumph, for both. Rip’s story makes him a village legend, and his knowledge of a prewar era was valued among the villages. However, the text informs us that, even after Peter’s approval, many continued to question Rip and his tale. Following the idea that Irving is showing himself through Rip, we may conclude that Irving never felt as though he truly succeeded in living as both an artist, and a patriarchal figure in his society. He never received the approval he so craved.
To conclude, “Rip Van Winkle” is a tale about a man trying to be more than that. But even when the men in the village begin to seek out Rip’s company, after being henpecked by their own wives and seeking kindred spirits, Rip is still thought of as a sort of ‘village nut.’ Always changing his story and varying on different points, as he retells it, again and again, Rip is forever mistrusted by his fellow villagers. He remains obsessed with the one thing that makes him interesting to others, whether they believe him or not; telling “his story to every stranger that arrived at Dr. Doolittle’s hotel,” Rip now sits where Nicholas Vedder would, in the same inn, achieving a small piece of the masculine and patriarchal role he always romanticized. The writer of the piece, Washington Irving, has many attributes similar Rip, and is known for using his writing as a form of expression for his own thoughts and emotions. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that Irving used Rip as a vessel for communicating his own opinions on marriage, masculinity, and the traditional roles of the patriarch.
Mystical Novels: Ligeia and Rip Van Winkle
Development of Genre in Early American Literature
Beginning in the late 18th century, several genres emerged in American literature. Hannah Webster Foster published The Coquette, which became an early example of novel writing. Edgar Allan Poe demonstrated the Gothic genre in short stories including Ligeia, while Washington Irving utilized romanticism in “Rip Van Winkle.”
Eliza and Peter Sanford both make the mistake of infidelity. Both characters are conscious of this mistake and acknowledge this in their letters to Mrs. Wharton and Charles Deighton, respectively. Eliza tells her mother that “she has become the victim of her own indiscretion, and of the intrigue and artifice of a designing libertine, who is also the husband of another.” She describes this as a “disgrace to [her friends].” In her apology, Eliza acknowledges that she is “polluted, and no more worthy of [her mother’s] parentage.
The novel provides moral lessons through its tragic ending. Since the affair ends with Eliza death and Peter going bankrupt, the consequences for their actions aren’t subtle. Throughout the novel, both Eliza and Peter acknowledge that their actions are wrong. Eliza warns herself in the third-person that “though strowed with flowers, when contemplated by your lively imagination, it is, after all, a slippery, thorny path.” Peter compares his relationship with Eliza to stealing. He includes a quote in his letter, which says “stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” He acknowledges and enjoys the sinfulness of their relationship.
In his letter to Charles, Peter expresses guilt that Eliza died. He takes responsibility for his actions, believing Eliza’s death is at least partly his own fault. He writes that the “upbraidings of [his] mind” accuse him “as the murderer of Eliza.” So while his mistake was his infidelity, he doesn’t regret that he loses his wife. He tells Charles that as they “lived together without love, they parted without regret. Since Peter decided to marry someone he didn’t love, it’s possible that he didn’t love Eliza either. Though he speaks highly about Eliza in his letters, he also discusses his disdain toward marriage. Earlier in the novel, Peter tells Charles that Eliza “would make an excellent wife,” but he plans to stay unmarried “so long as [he] can keep out of the noose.” Even after Eliza dies, Peter acknowledges that he seduced Eliza. Comments like this suggest he was aware that he didn’t love her.
Ligeia is an example of Gothic literature in both content and writing style. The story combines Poe’s romantic and idealistic feelings toward Ligeia with the horror of her death. Poe describes Ligeia in abstract ways, using grandiose diction and frequently alluding to Greek mythology. He writes that it’s a “vain attempt to portray the majesty” and “quiet ease of her demeanor.” Poe describes her eyes as “divine orbs” that “become to [him] twin stars of Ledas.” He discusses her knowledge of classical languages and sciences, and mentions that he “was sufficiently aware of her infinite supremacy.” Ligeia writes a poem for him to recite while she dies, and this poem is another example of Gothic literature. It uses the same kind of flowery language use elsewhere in the story, including its horrific elements. Ligeia’s poem includes lines such as “the seraphs sob at vermin fangs in human gore imbued” and “the curtain, a funeral pall comes down with the rush of a storm.”
Irving’s writing style is drastically different. While Poe uses ornate descriptions of ideal figures, Irving’s writing focuses more on nature. The story takes place in a small village, where Rip lives a simple life on a small farm. Irving describes how Rip neglects the farm, and lists the different crops he grows. Irving writes that the estate “had dwindled away under his management…until there was little more left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes.” Rips children are also neglected and described as “ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody.”
Despite the realism of the setting, “Rip Van Winkle” becomes more mystical. Rip’s solitude and the focus on history are both characteristics of romanticism. Rip falls asleep for a long period of time, and wakes up with a long beard. Shortly after waking up, his political affiliations are questioned. He’s pulled aside and asked “whether he was Federal or Democrat.” So although the story was written in the 1800’s, it focuses on Colonial America instead of the present day. George Washington appears in the story, and a crowd of people become outraged when Rip tells them he’s “a loyal subject of the King,” and proclaims “God bless him!”
Symbolism of Rip Van Winkle Written by Washington Irving
The story of Rip Van Winkle is set years before and after the American Revolution. In Irvin’s story, Rip Van Winkle, a man who wandered into the mountains after listening to the ongoing nagging of his wife, experiences strange encounters. He comes upon men, said to be the spirits of Hudson’s crew, who are playing a game of nine pins, and after drinking, he lies under a tree and goes to sleep. He wakes up twenty years later. Because he was use to what the world was like before the Revolutionary War of the United States, he notices how things changed drastically. Irvin uses the characters Rip to represent America, Dame to represent Britain, and the townspeople to represent the American people, to show the reader how the various parties participated in the American Revolution.
Rip’s wife calls him lazy because he does nothing around their home. He would rather go hunting with his dog or go to the village and gossip with men. Everyone in the village loves Rip. The narrator states, “The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached”. Rip made it his place to satisfy everyone but the people of his family. A few examples include rip playing with the children, teaching them to fly kites, telling the children stories, never refusing to help his neighbors, and he ran errands for people. The narrator’s states, “In a word Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, Rip found it impossible”. This is what causes Rip to be troubled by his wife. This can also be looked at as a representation of the American society as the US shows their efforts to take care of foreign affairs while not tending to their own. He is used to display American struggles and immaturity. Rip’s big error is his failure to be there and provide for his own family. One day Rip goes away to the mountains to escape from his nagging wife, only to take a sip of a drink and fall asleep for 20 years. When Rip wakes up and returns to town, he is puzzled by the many changes that have occurred such as his appearance and everything in the village. The character of Rip can also symbolize the American people who were struggling with finding their own identity.
Dame Van Winkle is the wife of Rip Van Winkle, who has a very sharp tongue. She is constantly nagging at her husband for his laziness and irresponsibility towards their home. The narrator shows this trait by saying, “She was continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family”. She is never satisfied with his deeds, and rightly so. The events in the story exhibit that she is the reason for her husband’s unhappiness. Dame represents the country of Great Britain. Her demandingness represents the power that the British tried to bring upon the American colonies, which eventually made them tired, as it did Rip. The tyranny he faces at home makes him escape to the mountains, which seems to be Rip’s happy place. Dame was the repressive hand that caused Rip to find his escape with the feeling of freedom, as did the colonists once they were able to escape the government’s rule of the crown.
The townspeople in the story represented the American society, showing how things were before and after the Revolution. It seems as though the townspeople were a bit conceited before the revolution, which is how they represent America while under British regulation. When Rip arrives back to town 20 years later, the townspeople grew to the expectation of their new government.
In Irvin’s Rip Van Winkle, Irvin displays changes in American beliefs from the experiences through the American Revolution. The short story provides insight to the characteristics of the American colonists and how the passage of time has modified the society.
A Hero’s Journey In Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle
Literature has been shaped by the culture of people; their hopes and dreams, their battles in life and in love, and their ability to overcome obstacles. It characterizes the ambition and deepest desires of a group of people, their aim of success and overthrowing their worst fears. As written by Karen Hunter in her biography, Joseph Campbell, he wrote a theory on the predictability of stories’ plots which include a ‘hero’, called A Hero’s Journey, “A … Monomyth, a term originally developed by author James Joyce”. He defined a monomyth as, “ … a universal heroic pattern replicated in all cultures and individual lives”. This monomyth would influence how people examined literary works, such as Rip Van Winkle, which can be compared to the Hero’s Journey framework and impact how people see heroes.
Rip Van Winkle begins with a predictable developing of the setting and characters. Rip is described as, “a simple good natured man; he was moreover a kind of neighbour, and an obedient, henpecked husband” overall giving the impression that he is someone that readers can easily relate to. He lives in an antique small town which has, “houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, with lattice windows, gable fronts… and built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland”, a setting which readers associate with normal lives. This supports the idea that Kathee Jones pointed out in her article ‘An Exploration of Personality Development through Mythic Narratives’, saying that the ‘hero’ begins their journey with their, “…biological endowments: talents, disabilities, interests, desires, and habits. The hero’s ordinary world is a place of social certainty, where expectations are known and followed”. The details of Irving’s story lead the reader to believe that Rip Van Winkle is a simple man living in a quiet and average town, where few turbulent events occur, which is the same as how Campbell laid out the Hero’s Journey. As the plot has followed the foundations of the Hero’s Journey, readers can predict a change in emphasis of the story.
After being introduced to Rip’s character and his surroundings, the setting and intensity of the story change as he leaves town. This happens because Rip’s wife yelled at all of his friends for encouraging him to sit around in a bar and smoke, which was so embarrassing and enraging that he sought, “to escape from the labor of the farm and the clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods”. This defines a scene where Rip is troubled after being in conflict with his wife, and gets away from her by going into the woods, introducing a new setting that is unfamiliar to the reader. According to Jones, this would perfectly entail the classic Hero’s Journey where, “ … a heralding event or character reveals other possibilities and the hero’s spiritual center shifts toward the unknown”. Due to the movement away from native areas, the atmosphere of the story slowly culminates toward the climax in Rip Van Winkle, as the monomyth would predict.
After helping a stranger with a keg climb a nearby mountain, Rip indulges in the keg’s contents, where he falls asleep surrounded by odd men who did not speak: a predicament not many find themselves in. He wakes to find himself without a dog, gun, or explanation for his hounding wife, a situation which causes him to be understandably unnerved. However, when he finds his way back to town, his wife is not his considerable issue. He observed that, “the very village seemed altered… there were rows of houses which he had never seen before and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared”, he was completely confused and scared. He went to the building that was his old friend’s bar, but was turned against as soon as he walked in, and said, “ … ‘they’ve changed my gun, and every thing’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”’. These excerpts from the text show Rip in a very difficult position; he is unaware of what happened to his belongings, how to explain things to his wife, and when he finally gets to town, and nothing makes sense. At this point, he is on the verge of a mental breakdown in the middle of a busy bar, which leads readers to infer that this is the climax of the story, due to the increasingly trying situation that Rip has found himself in.
According to the Hero’s Journey guidelines that Jones has described, this would fit because, “In the special world, the hero struggles through a series of trials,” in the second element of the journey, ‘Initiation’. Rip has lost all that makes sense to him, and he is faced with the issue of finding where to go, now that his old town is warped. However, this also skips several steps in the layout Jones predicted when she said, “Often a hero must undergo a test of character to cross the return threshold to the ordinary world, showing commitment to finishing the journey”. Rip Van Winkle does not conform entirely to the Hero’s Journey, because he is technically back in the original location, but it is unrecognizable in every way. He has no place here, which is an absolute contrast to the setting described at the beginning of the story. As well, this is described in the ‘Return’ phase of the Hero’s Journey, which is supposed to be after ‘Initiation’ (the conflict section), but in Rip’s situation, this is the most difficult trial that he must face.
Sadly, after asking those in the bar about his friends and family, he finds that many of them are dead or gone due to the civil war. The result of all this new loss, “Rip’s heart died away at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world”. However, through finding out the melancholy fates of his friends, Rip is able to find his path to happiness when he finds his long-lost daughter who is willing to take him in. He then learns about the legend of the Kaatskill mountains, which provides clarification that his grave predicament happened because he clambered atop a mountain with the strange man. Peter Vanderdonk, a descendant of the historian who had written about the province at its earliest stages revealed, “it was a fact, handed down from his ancestor the historian, that the Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by strange beings”. They had caused him to fall asleep for 20 years, which consequently led Rip to miss the war in which he unknowingly was separated from his loved ones.
While these details were sorrowful to learn about and have to accept, they also provided the clarification that Rip had been waiting to find. Jones says, “Heroes are challenged to knit together knowledge of the special world with the realities of ordinary life, becoming a master of two worlds”, and this concludes that often there is not always a completely happy ending in returning to the original world in the Hero’s Journey. However, in the case of Rip Van Winkle, it was heartwarming for readers to find out that he was eventually reunited with his daughter and was able to resume his usual routines. After all of this chaos for a man shown as simple and kind, he was able to overcome the pain and difficulty to, “[make] friends among the rising generation, with whom be soon grew into great favor” and had “got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle”. This lead to an ending which showed he had indeed mastered the ways of managing the past grievances and enjoying the present as is required in the monomyth as expressed by Campbell.
Through the lenses of the Hero’s Journey, Rip Van Winkle fits the frame in most attributes. The protagonist did not acquire guidance from a wise helper or anyone else during the phase of trials, nor was the exact order in the rise and fall of the climax precisely the same. The added complexity of how the final setting was arguably not the same as at the beginning topped off the additional parts of the story that did not correspond to the protocols of the Hero’s Journey. However, in weighing all of the attributes in the story, these details only slightly veered the direction of the story from the marks the monomyth had laid out.
The main points in the Hero’s Journey start with the hero in a normal place, and then after a setting change faces trials and finally is able to return to a peaceful yet enlightened life are all hit in Rip Van Winkle. One of the most important ways that Rip fills in the protagonist requirements of being a hero is how he is just a normal guy, yet is able to become something greater and have further appreciation for adventure. According to ChangingMinds.org, this “ … much-admired and much-copied pattern has also been criticized as leading to ‘safe’ movie-making, in which writers use his structure as a template, thus leading to ‘boring’ repeats, albeit in different clothes”. This refers to the predictable rise of a cultured hero by the end in the outline of a Hero’s Journey, however that is the reason why the Hero’s Journey affects literacy to such a great extent – the pursuit of something better will be found in all cultures, and therefore in the things that they write about. Human nature is to want to have adventure and become a better person through it, and by capturing this in their works, both Campbell and Irving have created something that ordinary people are able to relate to and use as a guide in their own life and pursuit of their goals.
Analysis of Rip Van Winkle as an Example of American Mythology
When talking about American mythology, there are quite a few characteristics that are shared by many mythological stories and fanciful literary works. Some of these characteristics say they are set in the past and are often times set in exciting places, are filled with remarkable and exaggerated characters, feature mystical, and mysterious happenings, and lastly they convey a positive message about a nation and its people. One of the first stories American Mythology often lead back to Washington Irving. He wrote the literary work, ‘Rip Van Winkle”. The story “Rip Van Winkle” is a great example of American Mythology because of the remarkable characters, the incredible and unbelievable events that occur, and the fact that it gives hope and presents positive messages about America through the long journey Rip takes in the story.
The first characteristic I’ve chosen of American mythology is the setting which is in the past and often times set in exciting places in the story. The story is set in the Kaatskill mountains (also known as the Catskill mountains). They are a segmented branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen westward of the river, and very tall considering the surrounding country. Rip Van Winkle is a farmer who goes off into the Kaatskill Mountains, where he soon finds a small group of dwarfs playing a game. When they offer him a drink of liquor, Rip accepts their offer and promptly falls asleep.
The second American mythology characteristic I chose is the featuring of mystical and mysterious happenings. Washington Irving includes many mysterious, magical characters, and events in his writing. It tells the story of a man named Rip Van Winkle, a man who casts off into the deep woodland of slumber for twenty years. He returns to find only that where he’d once lived and all who were his friends had long gone. He grows as a person in the story to find that his careless actions have had great consequences upon his life.
The greatest and final characteristic I’ve decided to write about is the remarkable characters, the incredible and unbelievable events. The very fact that it gives so much hope and presents such a positive message about America through the long journey Rip takes in the story, physically and symbolically, makes it a great example of American mythology. A character named Deidrich Knickerbocker is the narrator of the story. Rip Van Winkle himself is quite a character, however when it comes to the extraordinary happenings of the story, you couldn’t deny it if you tried. Rip falls asleep for twenty years for crying out loud!
So when you’re talking about American mythology, there are many characteristics that are shared by mythological and fanciful stories. Some of these characteristics say they are set in the past and are often times set in places quite exciting, they are filled with remarkably exaggerated characters, feature mystical, mysterious happenings, and lastly convey a positive message about a nation and its diverse population of people. Washington Irving wrote the literary work, ‘Rip Van Winkle” published in 1819. The story “Rip Van Winkle” is a great example of American Mythology and I hope to do an essay like this again soon.