Is the story of "Rip Van Winkle" about the struggle between America and England with Rip representing America and Dame Van Winkle representing England?  

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Certainly, it is easy to reach the conclusion that Dame Van Winkle represents England, or at least colonial rule. His wife is domineering, nagging, and never tires of telling Rip how inept and lazy he is. In fact, it is to avoid Dame Van Winkle that Rip goes into the countryside to take his fabled nap. In this sense, it might be easy to conclude that Irving imagines Dame Van Winkle as an overbearing wife, and it should be no surprise that when Rip awakes, he receives the news of his wife's death (from his daughter) as "a drop of comfort."

It becomes clear later in the story that the news of his wife's death was more welcome than the result of the American Revolution:

Rip...was no politician...there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was...petticoat government. Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle.

Some critics have seen in this response Irving's own ambivalence toward women, others have noted that Mrs. Van Winkle is more of an avatar of the bustling, energetic period of Irving's own life than colonial rule, but there are certainly parallels between Dame Van Winkle and colonial rule.


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