Washington Irving Questions and Answers

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How did Irving make Rip Van Winkle effective in shaping American history and identity?

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Washington Irving, in the tale of Rip Van Winkle as lifted from the larger work The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., was instrumental in creating literature that shaped the identity and perception of the new country known as the United States.

Rip Van Winkle was located in the new country and provided lengthy descriptions of the surroundings.

There stood the Kaatskill mountains--there ran the silver Hudson at a distance--there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always ken

Irving appealed to the Romantic preferences in literature at the time as well as confirming the viability and worth of stories coming from a new world setting.

The daily incidents in Rip's life pictured the events actually taking place in New England at the time when the story is set, providing affirmation to readers in the new country and insight into that far-off place for European readers. Local taverns were widely used as gathering places for debate and discussion as citizens shared gossip and news and struggled to make the decisions needed in the new society they were creating.

talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories ...(or the) profound discussions which sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands, and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.

Rip was a witness to and participant in this process; vicariously, so were the readers of Irving's writings.

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