Rip Van Winkle: A Symbol of American Mythology
Washington Irving's short story \"Rip Van Winkle\" is widely regarded as one of the first examples of American mythology, a genre that blends historical facts with fantastical elements to create a distinctive national identity and culture. In this essay, I will analyze how Irving uses the character of Rip Van Winkle, the setting of the Catskill Mountains, and the events of the American Revolution to illustrate some of the key themes and values of American mythology.
rip van winkle and the emergence of an american mythology essay
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Rip Van Winkle is a simple and good-natured farmer who lives in a Dutch settlement near the Hudson River. He is well-liked by his neighbors, but he is constantly nagged by his wife for being lazy and unproductive. One day, he escapes from his domestic troubles by wandering into the Kaatskill Mountains, where he encounters a group of strange men dressed in old-fashioned clothes and playing ninepins. He drinks some of their liquor and falls asleep for twenty years. When he wakes up, he returns to his village and finds out that everything has changed: his wife is dead, his children are grown up, his friends are gone, and most importantly, the American Revolution has taken place and the colonies have become independent from Britain.
Through Rip's character, Irving portrays some of the characteristics and dilemmas of American mythology. Rip is a symbol of the colonial past, a relic of a bygone era that is gradually replaced by a new and modern one. He is also a symbol of the American dream, a man who seeks freedom and happiness in nature and away from civilization. However, he is also a symbol of the American failure, a man who misses out on the most significant event in his nation's history and who fails to adapt to the changes around him. He is both an innocent hero and a foolish victim of his own circumstances.
The setting of the Catskill Mountains also plays an important role in creating a sense of American mythology. The mountains are described as a mysterious and enchanted place, where legends and folklore come to life. They are also a place of contrast and contradiction, where beauty and danger coexist. They represent both the wilderness and the wonderland of America, a source of inspiration and challenge for its people. The mountains are also a place of isolation and escape, where Rip can forget about his troubles and enjoy a peaceful sleep. However, they are also a place of alienation and ignorance, where Rip loses touch with reality and becomes unaware of the historical changes that affect his country.
The events of the American Revolution are another key element in Irving's depiction of American mythology. The Revolution is presented as a momentous and transformative event that marks the birth of a new nation and a new identity. It is also presented as a complex and controversial event that divides people into different factions and opinions. Rip's reaction to the Revolution reflects his confusion and indifference towards it. He does not understand why people are fighting for or against it, nor does he care about its consequences. He only wants to resume his old life and habits, but he realizes that he no longer belongs to his old society. He becomes an outsider and an observer, rather than a participant and an actor, in his own country's history.
In conclusion, \"Rip Van Winkle\" is a classic example of American mythology that uses fictional elements to explore real issues and themes. Irving uses Rip's character, the Catskill Mountains' setting, and the American Revolution's events to illustrate some of the aspects that define American culture and identity: its connection to nature, its quest for freedom, its diversity of opinions, its sense of progress, its nostalgia for the past, its uncertainty about the future, and its need for storytelling. 29c81ba772