What three qualities might paint Rip Van Winkle as a model American Romantic hero?

Expert Answers
lnorton eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Rip Van Winkle," a classic American Romantic tale, presents a hero that embodies several characteristics important to the ideal romantic hero.

Rip is isolated and alienated by his long sleep, and has trouble accessing the new, strange world of the future. Themes of the supernatural and fantasy are very prevalent in Romantic literature, as is the theme of nature. In RVW, these elements are what help to isolate Rip from society, thus creating the sort of iconic loner character so often found in Romantic fiction (see Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" for another example).

  Romantic heroes tend to be archetypal rather than well-rounded, realistic characters, and often meant to embody ideas rather than represent humanity (something that changed once Realism came about). In this case, Rip fulfills the classical role of the Romantic prophetic awakener. In this particular instance, the ideal is explored through metaphor (he "wakes up" in the story). Rip also has many antiheroic qualities (the Byronic hero comes to mind), such as laziness -- this tempering helps us separate him from  the neoclassical idea of the perfect hero. A romantic hero often has flaws.

 Rip's heavy involvement with nature -- it works as a setting and more in the piece -- also helps identify him as a Romantic hero. Romantic heroes are almost always seen as having direct involvement with nature, which is sometimes presented as wild, untamed, and dangerous.

tanvychowdhury | Student

One central aspect that you need to focus on is the way that nature is treated in this excellent short story. Apart from the elements of the supernatural and the other aspectscommon to Romanticism, there is a definite theme of the natural world in this story. Rip van Winkle's "escape" from the crowded city into nature, where he experiences a massive life change, is a recurrent motif in Romanticism. It is the domestic strife that Rip suffers that drives him away from the town, the symbol of civilisation and stress, and into the woods, which Rip seems to do quite a bit. He clearly experiences peace and relief whilst "in nature" and contemplating its beauty:

From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud or the sail of a lagging bark here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.

It is of course whilst in nature that Rip is called into the "wild, lonely and shagged" mountain glen where he experiences his prolonged sleep and repose, emerging into a very different world. Thus, the beauty of nature and how it provides succour to the soul, overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of life in the city, are key elements in Romantic fiction and this aspect is certainly to be found in this great short story.

ntxawm | Student

can u please help me about rip van winkle story...it he an romantic hero...i believe he was not a hero..

boschian | Student

by using the following themes: Nature, Gothic, and Emotion over Intellect.