Analysis of Rip Van Winkle

             How does a short story that is based on borrowed ideas come to be one of the most widely read and loved pieces of American literature? The answer is simple, by using memorable characters to convey a message of freedom and identity to a nation that was just starting to discover both. In Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving uses the characters to show his ideals as a romantic, and to represent the new found independence of a budding country. Irving wrote this story in 1820, a time when in a literary sense, America was still considered a replica of Britain. Romantic literature in America was just starting to grow and people were striving for more Romantic writing. This want as well as a new identity for the American people were granted when Irving wrote Rip Van Winkle, a story about a man who slept through the Revolutionary War.
             Just like many other great works such as The Great Gatsby, a novel in which F. Scott Fitzgerald used his characters to show the corruption of the American Dream, Irving used his characters to show his ideals as a romantic. The main character in this story, Rip Van Winkle, was himself an embodiment of the notion of Romantic freedom. He is described as, “one of those happy mortals of foolish, well oiled dispositions… and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.” (pg.156) This is exactly what Romantics thought life should be about, living a life free of work and being content with what you have. The story also emphasizes another important Romantic theme, with Rip Van Winkle often going into nature to “escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife…” (pg.157) In this case the escape from his wife would represent the Romantics’ escape from an industrialized and clamored society.
             Another way in which Washington Irving is able to use the characters is by having them represent Americas struggle in the Revolutionary War. The Elements of Literature textbook states that, “Rip’s aw...

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