Rip Van Winkle Topics for Further Study
by Washington Irving

Rip Van Winkle book cover
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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Many critics have studied Irving's familiarity with seventeenthcentury Dutch or Flemish painting, and Rip himself thinks of an "old Flemish painting’’ when he sees the bowling men in their unusual clothing. Find copies of paintings of country life by Adriaen Brouwer, Willem Buytewech, Jan Steen, Adriaen van Ostade, Esaias van de Velde, or others of the socalled Dutch genre painters. Is Rip's perception that the strangers make up a "melancholy party of pleasure'' echoed in the scenes depicted in the paintings?

Make a list of important published writings by Americans in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In what ways are Irving's stories unusual? What do they share with other writings?

When Rip Van Winkle sleeps for twenty years, he sleeps through the American Revolution and awakens into an independent nation. Examine life in Rip's village before and after his long sleep, and in colonies like New York just before and just after the Revolution. How much effect on daily life did this large political upheaval have?

Trace the travels of Henry Hudson through North America. Where did he go, and when?

Find a collection of Native American folk tales, preferably tales that come from the Native peoples of upper New York. How do these tales compare with folk tales from other parts of the world? What are the values held in common by the different cultures? Which values are different?