What are some distinctive American elements in "Rip Van Winkle"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Wahington Irving writes about America's past in "Rip van Winkle."  With a comic narrator, he touches a chord in the American public of his time as the voice is as inflated as a preacher's (e.g. 'Their tempers doubtless are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domes tribulation, and a curtain lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering") or a politician's; then it is rather self-mocking as later narrators such as Mark Twain were. 

The humor that Irving brings to someone sleeping through such a momentous event as the American Revolution is typical now of American comedians who hold nothing beyond their reach.  Satire has long been American.

Readers of Irving's time would be familiar with his allusions to the two political parties of the Tories and the Federalists as well as General Washington.  They would delight in the reaction of the townspeople when Rip mentions the King; the foolish character is very American, as well.

Overall, the tale of Rip van Winkle carries the typical American Romantic element of fascination with the past and nature.  Often Irving describes the beautiful Katskill Mountains with their "magical hues and shapes" that the "voyager" may come upon.


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