Washington Irving, in his short story Rip Van Winkle, uses allegory to represent the relationship of America and her new beginning as a nation with England and her old way of life. Washington Irving uses the characters in his story to represent different ways that the American people changed before and after the Revolutionary War. Irving also adds in a few of his own beliefs about how England viewed America. Irving uses the technique of allegory to get his opinion of American government and society out into the public eye. Irving uses his characters Rip Van Winkle, Rip's wife, and the general public in order to represent different aspect that effected the American way of life before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.
Irving uses the character Rip Van Winkle in his story to show the readers America and how England viewed America. Rip Van Winkle was a lazy man when it came to doing things around his own home. However, he was always ready to help out his neighbors whenever they needed his help. Irving states, 'He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple good-natured man; he was moreover a kind neighbor, and an obedient, henpecked husband" (30). He was a well-loved man in his neighborhood by the children and the animals. Irving uses Rip Van Winkle to represent the view England had of America. Rip Van Winkle was known to be a lazy man who was constantly nagged by his wife. Irving depicts the laziness of Rip: 'In fact, he declared it was no use to work on his farm; it was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything about it went wrong, and would go wrong, in spite of him" (31). Irving makes this statement to show the reader his view of the American government or how England viewed America as a 'pestilent little piece of ground." He was a man who spent time at the local Inn drinking and talking with his friends. Irving uses Rip's habits to represent the view that England had of America as a lazy, dependent nation that could never survive without the leadership of the King. Irving strategically represents America through Rip Van Winkle.
Irving places Rip's wife in the story in order to represent England. Rip's wife is constantly on Rip Van Winkle's back. She is always asking him to do things or getting on his for not doing things. Irving states, '; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family" (32). This was Irving's way of showing how England looked at America as an object to be bossed around before the Revolutionary War. Irving states, 'Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative to escape from the labor of the farm and the clamor of his wife was to take gun in hand, and stroll away into the woods" (33). This was Irving's way of telling the readers that the American Revolution had begun. At the end of the story Rip learns that his wife had died not long after he disappeared. This represents the freedom of America after they broke away from England during the Revolutionary War. Irving shows the true relationship of England and America by using Rip's wife to represent England.
Irving uses the general public to represent the American society and how they changed after they won their freedom from the King of England. Irving creates a picture this by showing the readers a view of the society of America before the American Revolution and then after the Revolution. Before the Revolution, Irving describes the townspeople as being under a rule and that they were loyal to the King only. Irving explains how the town moved at a slow pace before the Revolution saying, 'Here they use to sit in the shade, of a long lazy summer's day, talk listlessly over village gossip, or tell endless sleepy stories about nothing" (32). After Rip's twenty-year sleep, the townspeople were described as, 'There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility" (37). The town had completed changed according to Irving. This change was brought about by the Revolution and the fact that America was no longer ruled by the King of England. Irving uses the town and its inhabitants to explain the drastic change that the Revolutionary War had on American society.
Irving demonstrates the drastic change in America by the use of his character in Rip Van Winkle. Irving starts the story off by showing Rip and how he lived his life making sure to add parallels with America and her relationship to England. The readers can see this by closely reading the character of Rip. Irving also created the character of Rip's wife to represent England and the strong hold England had on the American people. Irving used the general public in this story to represent the complete change America made after the war with England. Rip Van Winkle is a perfect representation of America, England, and the America society before and after the American Revolution.
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