Romanticism was a reaction against what the Romantic writers saw as the excessive rationalism of the Augustan or Neoclassic Age of eighteenth century literature. The Romantics sought to tell supernatural folk tales, celebrate the common person, and reveal the beauty and divinity of nature. Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" does all three.
At the heart of the story is a supernatural event: wandering alone in the Catskills, Rip meets up with people in the forest, apparently ghostly seventeenth century Dutch, who give him a beer that puts him to sleep for twenty years. When he awakes, his world has entirely changed. This long sleep is not explained, but we accept it as a fact.
Second, Rip is a very ordinary person, not a general, a statesmen, or hero. He bumps along in life in a haphazard way, with little ambition and little to show for his life. While he is treated with more comic humor than would be typical of a Romantic writing about a common man, he is also rendered with some sympathy--and,...
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