Every work of literature is a snapshot of the time period in which it was written. Whether consciously or not, authors are influenced by the events, works of art, and people of their era, and those influences can be found in the text of their stories. Can you please explain this idea in the two short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Censors."

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The two stories you have referred to describe very different conditions in their respective snapshots in time, in two countries where, despite those differences, we can see the common element of unrest.

A basic theme of "Rip van Winkle" is that of the rapid transformation of a country. Rip awakens after twenty years of sleep to find that the colonies are now states, that the tie to the mother country has been broken, and that Americans have a new sense of themselves as an independent people. One interpretation of the American Revolution is that it was not a true revolution, as it did not change the internal social hierarchy of the colonies. This is only partly true. Though the elites of the colonies were not displaced (as those of France were in their Revolution), another sort of change occurred in which the national sense of merely being an offshoot of Europe was destroyed. This is what makes Rip a relic, an emblem of a superseded age; and more than anything else, this picture of him is Irving's snapshot of America. The new age is one defined by the dynamic of restlessness, ongoing transformation, and the replacement of the old and established by the new.

Luisa Valenzuela's Argentina shown to us in the snapshot of "The Censors" is one of restlessness as well, but it appears in the negative guise of constant turmoil, universal suspicion, and death. The country had gone through decades of unrest, from the Peronist period in the 1940s and 50s to military coups d'état, further periods of dictatorship, the return of Juan Perón, and the brief reign, after his death, of his third wife, Isabel, in the 1970s. The protagonist of Valenzuela's story, Juan, finds himself first attempting to subvert the regime by getting a job in the Censorship Bureau, but finally doing (and doing to himself) the opposite of his conscious plan, by condemning himself and revealing his own heresy. He has been subliminally brainwashed and has taken part in the very process he wished to overturn, and the story is therefore a summation of what totalitarianism does to the individual. Like the early United States, Argentina had changed rapidly in a short time. Juan does not awaken from a sleep as Rip van Winkle does, but he is caught, like Irving's protagonist is caught (though in a conversely benign situation), in a place where he does not fully understand the dynamics of the society around him. Juan is thus destroyed by that process, of which Valenzuela shows us a glimpse.

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