“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving

“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. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!” Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master’s face, and if dogs can feel pity I verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart” (Irving par. 27).

The short story under consideration is a subtle implication by Washington Irving regarding the events in American politics during his days (Wyman 217). Through this story, the author expresses his criticism of the American Revolution. The wife of the main character of the story, Dame Van Winkle, represents the Revolutionary War, whereas Rip Van Winkle is a representation of the mood that the people in the village have. The villagers symbolize colonists who are not satisfied with the politics of the government. The main character is not happy with his wife, he does not listen to her, he does not want to fulfill her requests, and he does not want to do anything in their house. Eventually, he becomes so overwhelmed with his wife’s constant murmuring that he reduces to “despair” as it is seen in the extract under consideration. This despair symbolizes the opinion of common people about the Revolutionary War. They are tired, exhausted, and the only thing they want is peace. Escaping to the mountains, the main character hopes to outwit his wife’s anger. This is a symbolical allusion to the mood that colonists had during the Revolutionary War. They were trying to isolate themselves from everything that was happening. Rip Van Winkle takes his dog with him. This is also the symbol that the author applies to indicate his point of view regarding the war. His dog is his best friend who understands him and sympathizes with him. The same attitude colonists had. They found comfort in their allies, but not in the government and its revolutionary actions. The extract also reveals that the main character’s heart is full of pain that he shares with his dog. This is a means that the author is using to describe the pain of colonists that they had as a result of the revolutionary events. The extract under consideration and the whole text has the same spirit in them. This is a negative spirit that the author has regarding Dane Van Winkle or the Revolution. The author openly subjects the actions of the new American government to the critique. The culmination of this negative attitude to war is the ending of the story. When the main character returns home from his escape, his life changes completely. The war and his wife pass away, and his life is different now. We see that his friends and even his acquaintances are gone. Everything is new and unknown. This is the way Irving shows that life is no longer the same in post-revolutionary America. This subtle implication in the story was soon noticed by politicians and the other outstanding men of Irving‘s times. For this reason, the author was subjected to severe attacks when he published this short story (Wyman 221).

Works Cited

Irving, Washington. Rip Van Winkle 2012. Web.

Wyman, Sarah. “Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle: A Dangerous Critique Of A New Nation.”Anq 23.4 (2010): 216-222. Print.

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