What is the point of "Rip Van Winkle"; is it just a funny story or is there something else going on?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Washington Irving's "Rip van Winkle" has become a story that represents the Early American literary voice. One of the goals of Irving was to give the new country of the United States,

some of the same feeling of tradition that older nations had because of their traditional lore.

Therefore, Irving modeled his story after German folk tales with which he had become familiar as a child and as he traveled throughout Europe. To lend realism to his own legend, Irving establishes at the beginning of his story that the tale "was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker."

In addition to the establishment of an American literary voice, Irving is credited by many with having written the first short story. Also, like many Romantic writers, Irving recalls past times with the setting of the American Revolution, expressing a certain nostalgia for the "drowsy tranquility" and less "bustling" and "disputatious" times that differed from those that followed the Revolution. Finally, there is the contribution of the folksy humor in Irving's descriptions of the termagant wife, and a "mock-heroic" humor that is not unlike that of Mark Twain.  All in all, "Rip van Winkle" is a story with a literary objective behind it.

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