Rip Van Winkle Questions and Answers
by Washington Irving

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Identify a key element of Romanticism in "Rip Van Winkle."

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One key element of Romanticism in "Rip Van Winkle" is the supernatural. Along with appreciating nature, Romantic writers pushed back against Enlightenment rationalism; they felt that it was a disservice to cut out the wit and wisdom inherent in whimsy and fairytale. For example, Coleridge (a seminal Romantic poet) wrote about the supernatural in poems such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The "Rip Van Winkle" plot pivots on supernatural elements. We are asked to suspend our disbelief (one of Coleridge's ideas!) and accept that Rip stumbles into a liminal space while on one of his walks in the Catskills. It is in this space where Rip encounters supernatural people (perhaps the ghosts of early Dutch settlers), who give him a drink that puts him to sleep for twenty years. Accepting this fantastic plot point is essential to understanding Washington Irving's story.

Irving's description of the liminal "deep mountain glen"—scarcely lit with the rays of the setting sun—and the people Rip...

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