80 Introduction (2016)

Jesse Giordano, J'Lillian Mello, Elizabeth Smith

Rip Van Winkle

In 1783, Washington Irving was born in New York City. He’s well known for “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” amongst other written works. After his family business failed in England, he wrote “Rip Van Winkle” in 1819, which was popular in both the United States as well as England. This story was published within a collection of writings called, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

Focusing on the passing of time, there are several instances that occur in this short story. For example, when Rip Van Winkle wakes up and he notices how much time has passed: “He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean well-oiled fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten” (64). For his gun to be start off shiny and new to a rusted-over piece of metal confuses him. He wasn’t sure if someone stole his gun and replaced it with this one. From the reader’s point of view this is one of the first instances that show time has passed for him. The amount of time is significant because it shows the reader that time is precious and can be taken for granted.

Mortality is another strong theme that is shown within this story. After he found out about his friends that died he has to confront the thought of death: “Rip’s heart died away at hearing of these sad changed in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world” (67). The deaths of his friends forces him to realize mortality. He grieves for the change and that the house and friends have passed. This realization is important because it shows the reader how much he’s missed and that life is valuable.

Lastly, social change was shown throughout the ending of the story. When Rip Van Winkle notices that King George is no longer and that change again has happened: “He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a scepter, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON” (66). This is a blatant symbol that the world has drastically changed around him.

Despite these heavy themes, he reconnects with his kids and can comfortably take it easy because of his age. This text was extremely well received in both The United States and England because it has strong themes that resonate throughout time and are still important today. This story holds a strong place in the history of American Literature because it wasn’t written in America, highlighting that geographical location isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for writing American Literature.

Works Cited

Biography.com Editors. “Washington Irving.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Washington Irving.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Study.com. “Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle: Summary and Analysis.” YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6v5xW27sC0&ab_channel=Study.com&gt;.

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Introduction (2016) by Jesse Giordano, J'Lillian Mello, Elizabeth Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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