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In the case of Rip Van Winkle, the narration is a myth within a myth. Irving mentions that he found the story among the writings of a Diedrich Knickerbocker who is indeed a fictional character. Irving wrote the story at a period in which Romantic writers were looking at the past to find myths, fables, and other narratives to attach them to their national identity. The undeniable fact that new nations need their own history, makes the writers create one for their people, and again in the case of American identity, Irving was the first among the many who tried a hand in writing a myth which concerns contemporary issues of the time, whether politically speaking or culturally. The most significant concept in Rip Van Winkle is demonstrating the notion of the American dream, years preceding the coinage of the term in the 20th century. A brief history of the American dream and its resemblances throughout the story will provide functional insight into the subject.
Before the main discussion on the American dream, it proves essential to scrutinize the text to determine what does the characters symbolize. The story is narrated between the final years of the British monarchy and the early republic era, then it is no wonder that the characters are demonstrating the conditions of the period. Huang interprets in his Rip Van Winkle: an Allegory of the American Revolution that Rip is in all likelihood, a representation of American condition under British sovereignty. Dame Van Winkle, the antagonist of the story, on the other side represents British colonies which were ruling America. Irving through his protagonist demonstrates the struggle of the Americans to extricate themselves and shape their own identity on the very soil of theirs. To further explain, Dame Van Winkle would nag and humiliate Rip, the same goes for the attitude of the British toward the American people during the colonizing period (Huang 1). They used to address the Americans as idle and indolent people. This attitude might have not been fallacious, as Irving portrays Rip as a slothful character, but solely to his own affairs which ultimately would benefit his wife, symbolically speaking. Irving describes Rip’s properties as “His fences were continually falling to pieces … Nothing ever grew well in his fields” (Irving 10). On the contrary, Rip was a fancy character among other “good wives” of the village. He shows an insatiable appetence to help others. The root of this perspective among the Americans might back to the fact that they simply would not agree that the British take advantage of their labor and profit their drudgery
Soon after the revolution, Rip, coming back from his 20-year sleep, encounters the same people, but with an enormous shift in their attitude toward politics and life’s circumstances. The community no longer demonstrates any sign of idleness or dawdling. The dynamic condition of the village signifies the true nature of the Americans which has burgeoned after the revolution and gaining their independence.