Rip Van Winkle


Rip Van Winkle” Washington Irving (1783-1859) was the youngest of eleven children born in New York City to an English mother and a Scottish father. The first native American to succeed as a professional writer, he remains important as a pioneer in American humor and the development of the short story. Unlike his brothers, Irving did not attend nearby Columbia College. In 1806, he passed his bar examination, but his heart was with literature. He published History of New York, a comic in which the narrator was his fictional character named “Diedrich Knickerbocker.” Irving\'s writing was so successful that the New York “Knicks” named their basketball team after Diedrich. Several years later, Irving moved to London and began to study German literature, scribbling original short tales based on his translations. On one inspired day he produced "Rip Van Winkle," which most scholars describe as the first American short story. In “Rip Van Winkle,” Washington Irving creates his masterful story by using imagery, irony, moralism, mysticism, and symbolism. To begin, Washington uses imagery to help produce his masterpiece, “Rip Van Winkle.” Irving uses many descriptive adjectives while describing Rip’s voyage into the Kaatskill mountains. Just before Winkle encounters the strange beings, he “lay musing at the scene of the cliffs scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun, and the shadows that nightfall casts” (23). Irving makes us feel like we are actually next to Rip, watching the sunset. We become even more aware of the beautiful nightfall: “When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky, but, sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory” (3). Irving uses adjectives which bring to life the words portraying the sky. Depicting the mountains, Irving writes: “At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape” (4). As we read these words, we begin to imagine and see what the scene really looks like. Irving Washington has created a story full of description by using imagery. Next, Washington develops the plot of the story by using irony. After wandering with his gun and his close companion, Wolf, Rip tracks himself into the upper parts of the mountains. Soon after, Rip comes across a stranger who was carrying what looked like a keg of liquor. So with the help of the Hollands, and a whole day of hiking, Rip falls into a deep, solemn slumber. But when he wakes up, he does not know how long he has slept or where both of his companions have gone off too. When he stumbles back to his home, Rip’s heart starts to break. He notices that his house is decaying, his favorite dog growls and snarls at his simple existence, and his wife and children are nowhere to be found. If we were in Rip’s position, we would definitely be confused as well. In search for answers, Winkle travels into town. Rip becomes aware that things are not as he had left them the day before. People of the town start to notice Rip’s grotesque appearance, with his long beard, his ancient gun, and unfashionable clothes. They start to walk in a large crowd around him, curious to see whom this unknown creature is. After a few minutes, a woman makes her way to the front of the crowd. “At this critical moment a fresh comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep at the gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his looks, began to cry” (47). Ironically, Rip discovers that this woman he is speaking with is his little girl who he had left so long ago. “There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence. The honest man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and