What is a character description of Dame Van Winkle in "Rip Van Winkle."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Authors employ five methods of characterization, four of which are indirect:

  1. through a physical description of the character
  2. through the character's actions
  3. through the character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches
  4. through the comments and reactions of other characters.

Washington Irving utilizes these methods of characterization in depicting Dame Van Winkle, the "termagant" who is Rip's wife. Moreover, it is comically stereotyped portrait that is presented of her as with other such descriptors as "shrew." Truly, she typlifies the "scold" who will not allow Rip to relax and visit with people and go off hunting with his dog as he desires.

In addition, Dame Van Winkle prefigures the new country that Rip will meet after this twenty-year sleep:  bustling, and loud, and disputatious in tone in confrontation with the imaginative and indolent Rip who represents Colonial America. For, Dame van Winkle views Rip and his dog in this way:

[She] regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye as the cause of his mater's going so often astray. True,...he was as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods--but what courage can withstand the ever-during and all-besetting terrors of a woman's tongue?

Dame van Winkle is further described as having a "tart temper," and "a sharp tongue"; she is a clamorous woman from whom Rip always attempts escape, thus reducing Rip to a despair that leads Rip to a "long ramble" to the high parts of the Kaatskill Mountains.

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Rip Van Winkle

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