RIP Van Winkle And Washington Irving’s Satire. Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, RIP Van Winkle, Winkle, United States, Netherlands, America, Folklore, New York

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/30

When publishing “History of New York”, Washington Irving resorted to a literary hoax. He wrote to some newspapers on behalf of the owner of a New York hotel who reported his intention of publishing an essay written by his one of his guests, Mr. Knickerbocker; the latter disappeared without paying the bill, leaving the essay in the room.
This fictional character, Mr. Knickerboker, is an old-fashioned gentleman in a wig with a pigtail. The hoax was so unconventional, that for a long time he was considered a real historical person. Irving’s book is a humorous chronicle of the New York of colonial times, when it was the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. Irving populated the settlement with naive eccentrics. For example, an extravagant Governor of New Amsterdam who defended the city with his forehead against enemy attacks. Irving’s satirical style is brisk and humorous. At the same time from under the disguise of Knickerbocker’s innocence glare such hideous feature of the colonial expansion as cruelty to the Indians, the indigenous population of the Americas, and all vices of the national character in its ripening during the Independence War.
The “Sketch Book” is the first collection of short stories by Washington Irving. The book was published under the pseudonym Jeffrey Crayon (in French "crayon" means "pencil"). In this collection of stories Irving skillfully combines romantic fiction and realistic household pictures, humor and sensitivity. He turns to old England, to its capital and provincial life, to America and its folklore. He draws on peculiar nature of American Indians and their customs. The "Sketch Book" includes two of the most famous stories by Irving, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", built on ancient legends of Dutch settlers. Rip Van Winkle, a slacker and a dreamer who slept for twenty years, slept through the War of Independence and the formation of the American republic, and then on waking up, he inappropriately declared a toast in honor of King George III. The name of the hero became a household name in America to refer to careless indolence and ridiculous anachronism.
“Rip Van Winkle" is set the past, but it is not a historical essay; Irving is guided by the principles of romantic historiography, which had been introduced into the artistic usage by W. Scott. The action takes place in a poetic imaginary world of patriarchal Dutch settlement of the XVIII century in the valley of the Hudson River. However, this is typical nativist prose: the life of Dutch colonists, beautiful scenery of the Hudson River and a magnificent panorama of Kaatskill mountains are depicted carefully, lovingly and enthusiastically. Domestic and topographical details are fused with local folklore motifs, genuine beliefs, legends and fairy tales in New York State. All this gives the novel a unique atmosphere, accented national character and plastic expressiveness.
It is noteworthy that the European fairy tale story of the shepherd Klaus Peters was used as a basis of "Rip Van Winkle". Klaus also slept for twenty years in the mountains. Critics detected the fact in the 60-ies of the XIX century, and it caused numerous attacks on Irving. Former idol was accused of plagiarism. The fact is that the romantic attitude required miracles, magic, and fairy tales. In Puritan New England religious folklore, such as beliefs and legends of witchcraft, sorcery and hellfire, was common. Household tales about the quarrelsome wives, as well as the original stories, anecdotes, practical jokes and prank, were widespread. A misfit sloth Rip Van Winkle immediately migrated to the storytelling, and came to be regarded as a genuine folklore character. Rip’s image was the artistic discovery of Irving that became, in its common modern usage, a word to refer to a person who had lost touch with his time.
At the beginning of his career, Irving serves as a political satirist. His first works are grotesque, like the story of the New York governor. Washington Irving continues to use satire throughout his later works, and Rip Van Winkle is a characteristic of his satirical style. He mocks his hero, portraying his laziness. Irving uses contrast in the plot of the novel. He describes a picture of the past, before Rip Van Winkle fell asleep, and then gives an episode after the hero had woken up. This gives an opportunity to compare the "old" and "new" times. And it turns out that the changes had not been for the better. Rip Van Winkle is confused after getting from quiet colonial times to the era of industrial progress, which changed everything and everyone, the relationship between people, their psychology. Instead of the former equanimity and tranquility there stood out efficiency, aggressiveness, and restlessness. People he used to know also noticeably changed. Human figures seemed less significant and original. Their way of life has lost the features of patriarchy, which used to have something in common with the stately calm and picturesque surroundings. Of course, the villagers were surprised to see a stranger, but his persona was not interesting to others as much as his voice. When Rip Van Winkle entered the tavern, the speaker in the blink of an eye found himself near Rip, took him aside, and asked who he would vote for. It was important to find out not who the new person was, or what happened to him, but who he was for, a federalist or a democrat. What was good in that time Rip found as his new present? Compared with all this fuss, rat race, petty politics and greed of New Americans, Rip and his lazy, serene attitude towards life looked attractive, naïve and stupid. Business-like brave new world in the eyes of Irving was deprived of poetic tenderness of old settlements.
Gradually, the image of Rip Van Winkle had come to be perceived as a folklore image symbolizing the pre-capitalist patriarchal America. In the short tale of Rip Van Winkle as well as in his other novel Washington Irving mocks the superstition, Rip’s long sleep itself, suggesting that maybe he was crazy. Rip Van Winkle is also famous for satirical portrayal of viragos and the men who allowed their wives to henpeck them. There is an opinion that he slept for so long to escape his housewife’s mean manners.
The artistic value and famous satire of the tale of "Rip Van Winkle" made it so well known and popular that it found expression in other artistic media. Five theatrical performances were made on the basis of these stories, starting from 1829 there were three operas, several children's shows, and a film by Francis Ford Coppola came out in 1985.

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RIP Van Winkle And Washington Irving’s Satire. Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 30, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2022.

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