In "Rip Van Winkle", How has the author used fiqures of speech(personification) to drive the themes of the story?Please explain, using quotations.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Washington Irving's legendary "Rip van Winkle," descriptions of nature are enlived by the author's use of figurative language:


As Rip van Winkle sits in the shade on long lazy summer days, he and the other men talk listlessly as the "placid clouds" pass overhead.

When van Winkle decides to pursue his favorite sport of squirrel shooting, he and his dog Wolf venture up the "fairy mountains"; however van Winkle becomes exhausted and lies down on a knoll that "crowned the brow" of a precipice.  Rip can see at a distance the "lordly Hudson,"  moving with its

majestic course, with the reflection of a purple coud, or the sail of a lagging bark here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.

This personification elevates nature to a superior importance, one much in keeping with Irving's Romantic style.  For, the romanticizing of the Kaatskill Mountains and the "fairy" atmosphere of the little men playing at ninepins in their jekins with long knives alludes to Henry Hudson and his crew members underscores Irving's motif of the beauty and joy to be found in nature, which is also home to memory.  Clearly, Irving's nostalgia for the more romantic world of the prerevolutionary times is communicated to readers with the author's figurative language and light-hearted humor.  For, once van Winkle awakens, he is "sorely perplexed" as he is confronted with the harsh realities of new flags and poles and the "bustling disputatious" tone of the new inn.