What values are uplifted and are rejected in "Rip Van Winkle"?
Washington Irving's charming tale,"Rip van Winkle," evokes a fascination with nature and a nostalgia for the past. Like many Romantic writers, Irving was enthralled by wild, natural landscapes. In this story, it is the beautiful setting of the Kaatskill (Catskill) Mountains and the verdant rolling hills that effects the magical change in the hero and sets the plot in motion. One description presents a magnificent view:
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 could, or the sail of a laggin bark here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
The "odd-looking personages playing at ninepins" are the ghosts Henry Hudson and his crew members, also symbolizing Irving's nostalgia for the past. This nostalgia is additionally expressed in Irving's description of the village upon van Winkle's return to the village two decades later. In place of the charming, quiet village in which he has lived, he finds
the very character of people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility.
Clearly, Washington Irving satirizes the post-Revolutionary society that argues in "Babylonish jargon" about Federalists and Democrats, and who shout "A Tory" when van Winkle tells them he is "a poor quiet man...and a subject of the King--God bless him!" Then, when Rip hears what has transpired while he has been asleep, his "heart died away at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends...." Gone is the slower life, the calm and natural beauty of the colonial village.