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Satire In Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle

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In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, literature began to show it was changing thanks to the newly formed democracy in America. As is the case with any young government, many different people wanted to turn the country into their own and make sure that the country worked under their democratical ideals. Washington Irving, was a native New Yorker who was born in 1783, he grew up in a world with these democratic ideals. He grew up to be, as many would say “first American man of letters.” His styles of his writings were like a national mythology which means: It is an inspiring narrative or anecdote about a nation’s past. Such myths often serve as an important national symbol and affirm a set of national values. This satirical nature of Irving’s shows up well in ‘Rip Van Winkle’, as he uses historical allusions and symbolic characters to mockingly compare colonial life under British rule to the democracy of the young United States Irving integrates these three characteristics very well. One, it is set in the past in a remote time. Two, the story has remarkable and exaggerated characters. Lastly, this tale includes mysterious events and their consequences.

“They are set in the past, often in remote or exciting places and times.” The meaning of this quote is that The story “Rip Van Winkle” is set in a remote place during the reign of George the Third. It is set in a small village underlying the Kaatskill Mountains. At the foot of these mountains, there was light smoke swirling up from the village, and gleaming roofs along the trees. It had been founded by some of the Dutch colonists. They settled during the time of George the Third. This was during the yoke of old England, where some myths originated. The setting’s characteristics largely impacted the story. It puts one’s mind into a mysterious place and time. We notice numerous changes in the setting throughout the story. Changes include everything from Nature, to the town, and to the people. These changes force Rip Van Winkle to realize he was asleep for much longer than he originally thought when he first woke up. We get a picture of beauty and grace with explanations such as the one used to describe the Kaatskill Mountains. Thus, showing the reader a complete picture of the world around Rip Van Winkle. It is necessary to set the scene here so we know what it looked like before Rip slept for twenty years.

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The characters of “Rip Van Winkle” are very strange. Specifically, Rip Van Winkle. Of all the characters, he stands out the most. Rip is very peculiar being. He was lazy, kind, and helpful. He is described in a silly manner in the story. The fact that he is helping some kids play a game of marbles shows it’s age. At a certain point during the story, Rip meets some men on a mountain. They were a bit odd. Not to mention unreal, mythical people. They had magical liquor. The characters also had a huge impact on the story.

The Rip Van Winkle story supports the American Revolution. Most of the events during and before the revolution are symbolic to the plot in the book. The story talks about change between two different generations. This represents before and after Rip fell asleep in the mountain. The village stands for the American community. The changes in the surrounding symbolize the changes in America. A different government had come into power. Rip’s lazy character describes the Americans at that period. They had no desire and zeal to work. Rip’s wife, Dame represents the British rule. She was constantly pestering and shouting. She had a dominant character or personality. Her family was afraid of her, even the dog behaved differently when she was around. In conclusion, this story shows that obstacles have to be overcome and attention has to be given to that which is needed to allow prosperity, freedom, and liberty to grow and prosper in the deserved region, or heart.

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Satire In Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. (2021, September 02). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“Satire In Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle.” Edubirdie, 02 Sept. 2021,
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