Monday, December 5, 2011


Irving's writing style fits to a tee the Romanticism period. For instance, his stories were about creatures largely considered to be mythological (except the devil, who is largely considered to be alive and well). In Rip Van Winkle, his main character is very child like and innocent, seeking to help other but neglect his own work (Irving "Rip"). Many Rationalist writings had such characters. In addition to this, the characters who are more grown up and have flaws like greed are vilified, as in the case of Tom Walker and his horrid and miserly wife (Irving "The Devil" 242). Another Romantic theme that made its way into Irving's stories is the strong focus on nature. When Rip Van Winkle's wife will not leave him alone, he goes into the mountains for refuge with his dog, Wolf (Irving "Rip"). The more important parts of The Devil and Tom Walker take place in a forrest as well, like when Tom Walker first meets the devil (Irving "The Devil" 244).

There is a really big difference between Rip Van Winkle and The Devil and Tom Walker. Rip Van Winkle is sort of a story written to entertain, just something to make a reader smile. There is nothing at all serious about it. The Devil and Tom Walker has a moral to it, even if it is a little far fetched. The end warns against dealing with the devil, which could be taken more figuratively and serve as a rational moral to refrain from avarice (Irving "The Devil" 250). Also, one deals with fairies and the other with religion. Although, if the author put fairies and the devil in the same category as all other made up characters, I suppose it could be a similarity instead. On the note of similarities, both stories had a horrible wife character in them, whose sole purpose in life seemed to be being terribly unpleasant. In addition to that both styles seemed almost dream like as well, as if Irving was relating the events of a dream instead of telling a fairy tale or myth (though I suppose a fairy tale is a very dreamy thing by its very nature).

Despite my initial overlooking of a moral to Rip Van Winkle, a literary criticism I read pointed out a potential moral I had missed while reading. It said that the story could be seen as a warning to people who refuse to look change in the face, and wake up one morning to find everything changed (Watts). Personally, I do not really see it because when a person is forced to realize a complete change in an instant, bad things generally happen. In Rip Van Winkle nothing really unpleasant happened, and he even gained a good deal of peace by the loss of his nasty wife (Irving "Rip"). Therefore, I stick to my initial idea the Rip Van Winkle did not really have a moral, and was written entirely to entertain.

Irving, Washington. "The Devil and Tom Walker." Comp. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Ph.D. and Douglas Fisher, Ph.D. Glencoe Literature. American Literature ed. Columbus: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009. 97-99. Print.

Matthews, Washington Irving. "4. Rip Van Winkle By Washington Irving. Matthews, Brander. 1907. The Short-Story." Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. .

Watts, Linda S. "'Rip Van Winkle'." Encyclopedia of American Folklore. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. December 5, 2011. EAFolk704&SingleRecord=True.

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