Rip Van Winkle

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Rip Van Winkle

In the late 1700's and early 1800's, literature began to show it was changing thanks to the newly formed democracy in America. As is the case with any young government, many different interest groups arose to attempt to mold the government according to their vision of democracy. Washington Irving, a native New Yorker born in 1783, grew up in a world engulfed in these democratic ideals. He grew up to be, as many would grow up in this atmosphere, a political satirist. This satirical nature of Irving's shows up well in "Rip Van Winkle", as he uses historical allusions and symbolic characters to mockingly compare colonial life under British rule to the democracy of the young United States. The reader assumes the appearance of Rip from the preceding paragraphs in which the author sets the general timeframe in the colonial era before and after the American Revolutionary war. To describe Rip one would have to look mostly at little hints in the story. The best way to describe Rip would be that he is very muscular because of all of the physical labor done in chores. We also learn Rip had light hair with blue eyes. Rip's clothing was that of the time period: black suits with fluffy white collars, tri-cornered hats, and brass buckles on the black shoes. Good-natured and helpful best describes Rip's attitude, this good faith towards all that eventually lands Rip in trouble. This story is full of historical instances. The first historical satire occurs attached to the name Peter Stuyvesant, who is mentioned twice with exaggerated praise. Stuyvesant, a harsh and strongly disliked governor, was in power when the English seized New York. Irving uses a false respect for Stuyvesant to make fun of the Dutch in New York, who blamed him for the loss of the land to the English. Having set the scene as a Dutch-friendly narrator, Irving introduces Dame Van Winkle, Rip's angry wife, who maintains contempt for Rip's laziness and carefree attitude. Dame Van Winkle' harsh control over her husband represents King George and the English rule of the colonies. Whereas George, yet felt faithful and attached to the Crown, mistreated the colonies Rip stood by his demanding wife. The irony is in Rip's non-caring attitude towards Dame Van Winkle. He was harassed and bossed, but he was content. Nicholas Vedder, the owner of the inn, who controlled the conversations and opinions of the tavern talks, represents the colonial governors appointed by the Crown. While he rarely spoke, his influence was always present. This mirrors the inactive role the governors took in every day life, and the colonist's considerable respect for them. The relationship between the governors and Britain is illustrated perfectly by Irving when Dame Van Winkle comes to the inn to collect her husband. "Nicholas Vedder himself, scarred from the daring tongue of this terrible woman, who charged him outright with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness. "(Irving 15) (6)While a characteristically influential man, Nicholas is no match for the intimidation of Dame Van Winkle. The turning point of the story occurs when Rip walks deep into the woods and encounters a mysterious band of oddly dressed strangers with foreign customs. These strangers represent the tribes of Indians who dwelled in villages outside the colonial settlements. In the short conscious time Rip spends with them, he takes the time to notice a great deal about how their small town works. Throughout their entire party, the group remained completely silent, although they were definitely happy. This portrays the Indians apprehension to interact with the settlers. Rip also takes note of a leader of the group. This leader wears a large, outlandish headpiece, and is shown to be a respected elder of the group. The entire scene where Rip waits on them out of fear, parodies the capturing and enslavement of the settlers by the Indians. This part of the story is a bit vague to the...
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