Based on the two short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Censors," explain how these two stories were influenced by their respective contemporary historical, political, and social contexts. Describe how each story reveals something relevant about the time period or location in which it was written.

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In "Rip Van Winkle," the pertinent social and political context is the formation of the United States. Before Rip falls asleep for twenty years, New York is still a British colony. Rip, for instance, meets with his friends at the inn under the portrait of King George III. When he awakens, he is surprised to find that he lives in a new republic, the United States, that has democratic elections and an active and involved population. He is surprised to no longer be a subject to a king but a citizen in a democracy. The story explores the apathy—represented by Rip—of being a colony against the vigor and spirit of a new nation. For example, as Rip returns, confused, to his hometown after his long sleep, he finds that an election is going on.

"The Censors" explores Argentina in the 1970s, when the political situation became more dangerous after a military government took over in 1976 and began stamping out dissent by arresting and torturing civilians—and censorship became far more common. In this story, Juan becomes a censor in order to find a letter he has carelessly written to his friend Mariana, now in Paris, because he fears the government will track her down and kidnap her. However, Juan ends up co-opted by the system and becomes such a dedicated censor that his zealousness leads him to turn himself in for execution.

Both stories are alike in having a fantasy or fantastical element that leads to highlighting a political situation. In "Rip," it is Rip meeting the supernatural ancient Dutch people who give him the enchanted beer that puts him to sleep for twenty years. This collapses time so that Irving can make a positive commentary on the political changes that have come about while Rip slept. Valenzuela uses magic realism—realism merged with the fantastic—to depict an exaggerated censors' office, more developed than anything that actually existed, in order to comment on how ordinary people can be sucked into collaborating with an evil regime by bureaucracy.

Both stories have main characters who are imperfect. Rip can't adjust to the positive new changes in his society and so becomes a relic of times thankfully past. Juan adjusts too wholly to the new society and, ironically, becomes the agent of his own destruction. We see, for example, his mother trying to urge him to work less, have a drink, and go see friends, but his dedication to his job becomes too all-encompassing.

One story is a positive commentary on political change, while the other is a negative commentary; but both use the fantastic to make a point.

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