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Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving essay sample

The story "Rip Van Winkle”, written by Washington Irving is taking place in America, in a small village at the bottom of the mountain. A long time ago, a good man by the name of Rip Van Winkle lived there. All the neighbors loved him, but his wife was terribly shrewish and she often forced him to leave the house. One day, Rip went to the mountains to hunt. When he was about to return home, he heard an old man calling him. He rushed to help him to go up the hill, and the man led him to the canyon, similar to a small amphitheater. There was a company of people playing bowling. The old man offered Rip a drink, and as soon as he drank it, the fog surrounded him, and he fell asleep.

He woke up at the same place, but he noticed that his bones were aching, and he had grown a gray beard. When Rip returned home, he had found that his house was destroyed, and the village had changed altogether. Nobody could recognize him; he did not see a single familiar face either. He said a couple of names to the villagers, but they appeared to be long dead. When he mentioned his own name and told his story, a woman from the crowd realized that it was her father, who left the house twenty years ago. As it turned out, the cup, from which he had the drink, was the cup of oblivion.

In his story, Irving combines fantasy and reality. This enchanted dream can be reinterpreted as a deliberate lie to justify his long absence. It could be that Rip, enslaved by his wife and tired of continuous welding, just ran away from home. Another point that proves this assumption is that the first question he asked was whether his wife was still alive. Only when he made sure she had passed away, did he tell his name and reveal himself.

Although Irving borrows the legend and some motifs from European Romanticism, he brings a bit of common sense into it, which makes it American. The author was fully aware of the importance of folklore in creating national literature. No wonder, that overtime, his Rip was perceived as a folk hero.

The name of Rip Van Winkle has become synonymous to the definition of a man, alienated from the reality that has lost the connection with his own time. In addition, the name is multi-valued in relation to the meaning and content of the story. Thus, Rip can be viewed as an abbreviation of the Latin RIP –“requiescat in pace” – rest in peace.


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