An Examination of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

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“Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving has been a well known story told throughout time. As a child, there is no doubt you have heard a famous tale by Washington Irving about a carefree man who slept for 20 years. Like many stories, Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” has been told so many times throughout American history that it has lost its original purpose. The story is now remembered for its fairy tale like quality and its appeal to the children and the young at heart. However, when read more closely, one may discover how irony played a hand in Irving’s character which enhanced the creativity of “Rip Van Winkle”.

Throughout the story, the most prominent situational irony that could be seen is the outcome of the beverage drinking. Actually irony is one of the main principles in Washington Irving’s stories. His irony is light and kind, it is closer to humor than to sarcasm or satire. Humor is a particular tool used in order to create a comic effect; it suggests a good natured laugh at a man or an event. Nicholas Vedder, a landlord of the inn, who was considered to be a patriarch of the village because he always smokes a pipe and never uttered a word. He even had adherents who would observe him attentively and understand, by the way he was smoking his pipe, whether he approved of the situation or not.

“When anything that was read or related displeased him, he was observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth short, frequent and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale he smoke slowly and tranquilly” Here we could see the gap between the reality and the words, which creates a humorous situation. With this kind of comical humor in the story, it contradicts to the resulted scenes after twenty years. After Mr. Winkle returned to town, his house was described as “empty, forlorn and apparently abandoned” continued by “he called loudly for his wife and children- the lonely chambers rang for a moment with his voice, and then all again was silence.” Comparing to the previous fantasized setting, the new atmosphere is dimmed and gloomy. Irving created a dramatic change between twenty years before and after.

Although various types of situational ironies could be found, there is also a verbal irony that contradicts. The original full title of the story was supposed to be called “Rip Van Winkle, a Posthumous Writing of Diedrich Knickerbocker”. Irving starts with a verbal irony; a story is called “a posthumous writing”. But a posthumous writing cannot exist, there can be only a posthumous publishing. Because no one could write books after he’s in the grave. So, there is a paradox, a gap between the words and the reality. This adds suspense and fantasy, and draws the reader’s attention to the story.

“Rip Van Winkle, demonstrates Irving’s versatile talent. The author appears to be not only a keen word-lover but also a gifted ironist, who uses all the possible literature devices to create the atmosphere full of joie de vivre in his witty and light romantic stories. Although he passed away, his classic tales will always be remembered and long live through American literature.

Cite this paper

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

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