An Analysis of Developing American Literature
“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving and “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” by James Fennimore Cooper demonstrate several distinct American characteristics. Irving focuses on New York’s Hudson River while discussing the settings of “Rip Van Winkle. New York is probably the most identifiable state in the U.S. and is recognized by its Statue of Liberty welcoming foreigners into its prideful country. While Irving discusses nature’s beauty in similar ways in the U.S. by giving a page description on a simple frozen lake in Somerville. In “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” the three main American characteristics in these short stories are: power of nature, value of the common man, and growing nationalism.
Nature can be a powerful concept. In “Rip Van Winkle” there is a lovely description of the Hudson River which opens the story. “Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river swelling up to a noble height and lording it over the surrounding country.” In “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” there is a similar description. “Large flocks of wild geese were seen passing over the country, which hovered, for a time, around the hidden sheet of water, apparently searching for a resting-place; and then, on finding themselves excluded by the chill covering, would soar away to the north, filling the air with discordant screams, as if venting their complaints a the tardy operations of Nature.” Nature is very important to Washington Irving and James Cooper.
Along with nature, also present is the value of the common man. Values had certainly changed when Rip awoke from his century nap. In a state of confusion, he yells, “Alas gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King- God...
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