I believe, the criticism Dame Van Winkle receives by the narrator and the different characters of the story is unnecessarily crammed with bitter criticism and malice. Hence, in my paper, by focusing on the tone of the tale, I will be arguing that it is anti-feminist. Additionally, I will include that analyzing this anti-feminist tone is important in how we read the text because it will enable the reader to better comprehend the character of Rip Van Winkle and whether or not his actions are legitimized.Although several readers might classify Rip as a Romantic hero because of his innocence and ‘everyman” persona, I don’t suppose he’s all too heroic if we were to consider his abandonment of responsibility and indifference towards his spouse. It may seem to the reader at the onset that Rip is unjustifiably and harshly “hen-pecked” by his despot of a spouse and in this way meriting sensitivity. However, a more in-depth examination of the text I argue reveals that readers should perhaps divert their sensitivities towards Dame Van Winkle. Gazing the text through a feminist lens, it’s clear that the criticism presented upon Dame Van Winkle is superfluous and can’t be completely legitimized.
We notice multiple instances of disinterest and degradation towards Dame Van Winkle when reading through this anti-feminist lens. The author neglects to give Dame Van Winkle a name and in therefore an identity. For instance, Dame Van Winkle is not even once alluded to by her first name (mention all the names she’s called), unlike all like the men in the story who we know to be called Rip Van Winkle, Nicholas Vedder, and Derrick Van Bummel. She also is given no dialogue.Perhaps the motivation behind why Dame Van Winkle is never given a name is because she isn’t viewed as a “good wife” and is thus fined for her ‘termagant” trait and “hen-pecking” ways. It becomes clear that such is the case when the reader is introduced to Judith Gardenier “ Rip’s daughter “ who is depicted as a ‘fresh comely woman.” Thus, Judith, a duteous spouse and mother, is rewarded for her role as a ‘good wife” by being the sole feminine character within the text to be given a name.
Furthermore, Irving accuses the greater part of Rip’s failings on the detestable temper of Dame Van Winkle and makes sweeping statements about women. Remarks such as, “a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only tool that grows keener by constant use” show a typical male mentality toward women who talk their psyches as opposed to playing the noiseless and compliant role supposedly intended for them. Dame Van Winkle is portrayed as a termagant wife (p. 574) with a tart temper and and sharp tongue (p. 575). In fact, Dame Van Winkle was so imperious that Rip often sought after solace outside of his house. When reading through this anti-feminist lens, the reader can finally begin to understand that Dame Van Winkle may have merely been fully annoyed by his lack of initiative to help within the repairs of his home and family and surprised by the depth of Rip’s laziness. Perhaps this was Dame Van Winkle’s endeavor to get Rip to really accomplish something useful for his own family. Rip’s response to being confronted by his spouse was to shrug his shoulders, shake his head, roll his eyes and stay silent (p. 575), and I would argue that doesn’t seem like a romantic hero.Now, as a counter-argument, one may say that any wife who ‘henpecks” her husband too much risks diverting him off from the relationship by and large.
However, I believe Dame Van Winkle had sensible reason for her ‘henpecking” behavior. At the time Irving’s text was written, women were dependent upon their husbands as the sole monetary supporter of the family. Dame Van Winkle might not have well-known the extent of Rip’s idleness before their marriage. At the time, the wife was expected to stay at home and raise the children. A husband was to produce for the family. By Rip’s own admission in alluding to the house, ‘Dame Van Winkle had always kept” it [the house] ‘in neat order” (p. 579). Rip wasn’t willing to produce for his own family, selecting instead to help his neighbors. Since he wasn’t satisfying his familial responsibilities, Dame Van Winkle took each occasion to bring his failings to his attention with the hopes of fixing him. Additionally, Rip is forced into the woods to flee. She is the reason that Rip has his adventure; without her, there would most likely be no story. Would Rip even have been satisfied with his bench in front of inn if Dame Van Winkle had been silent?
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