The Theme of the American Revolution In Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle

Term Paper, 2002

6 Pages, Grade: 2,0


The Theme of the American Revolution In Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle

One of Washington Irving’s earlier works and typical for his humorous writing is The Sketch Book. It also features the tale of Rip Van Winkle, which is the source of the following essay and a very satirical (though deep) approach to the theme of the American Revolution. By using Diedrich Knickerbrocker as narrator of the story, Irving escapes any possible attempts to criticize him for his social satire. The purpose of this paper is to show how and why the theme of the American Revolution is the most important part of Rip Van Winkle

Irving’s (fictitious) tale is set in a “little village of great antiquity” (Irving, 981) on the Hudson River. Surrounded by the majestic Kaatskill Mountains, the inhabitants live an uncomplicated and simple life. The American Colonies are still under British rule and revolutionary ideas have not arisen yet. One of the inhabitants is Rip Van Winkle. Although he is of Dutch descent, “he inherited […] but little of the martial character of his ancestors”. Instead, Rip is a good-natured fellow and father, “ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own” and takes life easy. He is “a great favorite among all of the good wives of the village” and “not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood” (Irving, 982). Unlike the emerging revolutionary generation, Rip is the total opposite of progressivism – he does not care about tomorrow but lives his life in the present, or even in the past

A first example of the depth of the story and a clear sign for Irving’s allusions is Rip’s wife. She is the hero’s greatest worry and causes him a lot of headaches by always criticizing and telling him to do the work on the farm. His “idleness, carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family” enrage her and she does not want her children to be like him. Like the relationship between the American Colonies and England could be regarded as a maternal link that is going to be dissolved, Rip and his wife are far from a happy marriage, either: [MO1] “Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on” (Irving, 983)

One of Rip’s distractions from his wife is meeting with his friends. Representing a backward looking attitude as well, they form a kind of informal club and meet on a bench in front of a small hotel, the Village Inn. Their lacking sense of progressivism is obvious by “a rubicund portrait of his majesty George the Third”. Irving ironically characterizes a typical meeting as follows:


[MO1] This sentence has to be

Excerpt out of 6 pages


The Theme of the American Revolution In Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle
Sewanee the University of the South
ENGL 377: American Literature I
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ISBN (eBook)
File size
438 KB
Theme, American, Revolution, Washington, Irving, Winkle, ENGL, American, Literature
Quote paper
Moritz Oehl (Author), 2002, The Theme of the American Revolution In Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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