Character And Theme In Rip Van Winkle

981 words - 4 pages

In Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," Rip's character is closely correlated with the theme of nature and its prominence over the ever-changing world. The story is set in the Kaatskill Mountains, an important setting with a luminance that does not falter throughout. Similarly, Rip is immediately described as a respectable and well liked man in his mountainous setting. Right off the bat, the two can be easily associated. The magical elements in the story cause Rip to fall asleep for twenty years, and upon waking, he is in a world completely changed by the progression of time. However, despite the extreme alterations, only Rip and the nature that he is so familiar with are able to prevail, remaining ultimately unaffected by the new world.
The setting constitutes for a key element and important role in the story, as it is carefully aligned with the main character. It is noteworthy to know that the Kaatskill Mountains are part of the Appalachian chain, which run through a series of states in the in the mid eastern section of the United States. Yet, the Kaatskills are not an immediate link to the rest of the chain. Instead they stand apart, ostracized by the natural terrain of the land, instantaneously suggesting that they encompass a greater status than anything else within their surroundings. Their reverence continues, as Irving describes these mountains as being noble and lording; having "magical hues and shapes, [and are] regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers," (Irving 702). The language used in these opening paragraphs emphasizes the setting with an easily recognizable connotation, which compares the mountains to a god of sorts, ruling over the land. This attention that Irving put into this early description was not by mistake. He wanted for the reader to understand the importance of the setting, as it will play a significant role as an underlying theme of the story.
Almost as soon as the grand setting is told, the designation of the story itself, the character Rip Van Winkle, is introduced. He is depicted ideally as well, said to be simple and widely liked, and most importantly good natured. Without hesitation, it is stated that he is a descendant of a family who played a more than respectable role in the history that helped to capture and establish the land that is now his mountainous village. He is recognized as more than the average citizen already, perhaps one of great influence, not unlike the nature itself. "He was, moreover, a kind neighbor and an obedient henpecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity," (Irving 702). Despite this constant distressing of his spouse, made eminent in...

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