An Analysis of the Comedy, Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

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Washington Irvings Rip Van Winkle is a comedic, unordinary tale that raises some interesting points about reality. Despite the tales fairy tale like plot, the reader can relate and identify with the storys sequence of events. In the very beginning, where Diedrich Knickerbocker is introduced, Irving is instilling a sense of reality to this short story. This character is an old, wise gentleman who is very curious of the Dutch history. He is a well-liked man whose opinion is respected. Adding this character provides authenticity to the story by making the reader respect his past writings and opinions.

The main character, Rip Van Winkle, is a man to whom many can relate. He is well liked within his community, especially with children. The children of village would shout with joy whenever he approached (430). He is very lazy when it comes to doing any kind of work for himself or his family. His own farm is a disgrace. In fact, it was the worst conditioned farm in the neighbourhood (431). He is lighthearted and loved to help others when they need a helping hand. He is also a favorite of the good wives in town; he participates in the usual female gossip concerning family squabbles. These characteristics of Rip make him well liked by the reader. Later on, the reader feels sympathetic toward Rip for what he must deal with from his wife.

Needless to say, Rips personality is not well appreciated by his wife, Dame Van Winkle. The reader gets the notion that Rip is not very good at the whole marriage idea due to the fact that Dame is his third wife. It is mentioned that a wife, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing; if so, Rip Van Winkle [is] thrice blessed. (430) Most fairy tales do not include multiple marriages, but these days this is common. Dame was constantly nagging him about his laziness, carelessness and how he was destroying the family. In reality this is seen in some families and cultures as being perfectly normal and expected. In American culture, it is very common for the wife to nag the husband constantly about household chores and such, the only difference here is that Rip did not work, nor contribute to household chores. Rip was used to this behavior from his wife; he just shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. Her comments did not bother him at all, and in fact he was perfectly content.

Mans best friend is also present in this story. Wolf, Rips dog, was always by his side; Dame disapproved of him, concluding that he was just like Rip, lazy and useless. The nagging from his wife eventually left Rip in despair. Once the abuse at home reaches a point where it becomes unbearable, an individual often takes measures to either rid himself of the abuse or find a means of coping. Some shut down, closing their feelings off as much as possible. Others, unfortunately, may resort to murder or suicide.

Fortunately, Rip Van Winkle decides to spend the day squirrel shooting. This is very realistic. Many men and women cannot take the pressures from family and, as a result, leave his or her family behind to start a new life. When Rip scrambled into the woods that day, thats what he was unconsciously doing; running away from the pressures of his family. The meeting of the short old man provides Rip with an escape, and even though he was not aware of it consciously, unconsciously he knew that he would not be returning back to his miserable life. He enthusiastically drank the liquor, even though it was never offered.

While Rip was asleep for twenty years, the world around him changed quickly and drastically. A war was won and King George no longer ruled Americans, rather, they had become free and independent. Rip was confused and asked many questions seeking his identity in the same way that the young country was seeking its identity. The primary example of this is the sign in town that was once of King George was now of General Washington. While the exterior paint and personage had changed, the base of the painting remained unchanged; the red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was stuck in the hand instead of a scepter. (436)

Typically a story of this kind will end showing that leaving ones troubles by walking away and returning some twenty years later is a terrible mistake and that one would be punished for doing so. This story has quite an opposite ending. Just like the painting of General Washington, many things changed by appearance, but at large, it was all the same, except better. Rips life is better than what it was before he left. His wife was dead, which to him was beneficial because now no one could nag him day in and day out, his children were all grown and now they could take care of him, now he could legitimately retire into laziness and carelessness, and his country was free and independent.

All of this government change did not affect Rip at all, Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of state and empires made but little impression on him(439). He quickly adapted back into his old life by hanging out with old friends and gossiping. This contrary ending gives the reader a feeling of reality. showing that all fairy tales dont end with the right morals and lessons learned. Rip ran away from his problems and when he returned, they all had disappeared. Now he could be happy by living his life the way he wanted.


Cite this paper

An Analysis of the Comedy, Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-the-comedy-rip-van-winkle-by-washington-irving/

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