by Tina Kou（郭文婷）
Washington Irving, “the father of American literature,” has published many typical American short stories. One of his classic American short stories is Rip Van Winkle. He wrote this work to show the issue of national identity, the disillusion and the darkness of the American dream at the early period after the American independence.
Firstly, through the awakening of Rip Van Winkle, the author showed the issue of national identity at the time when the American became independent. At the time the Americans were just set free from the old English government. They entered a new era, and most of them were confused with their new identity of being an American. They did not know if they should live the way they did or had another way of living. Irving used Rip Van Winkle to emphasize this issue. When Rip Van Winkle awoke, he faced a world where things and people were all changed and were all different from the world he used to be familiar with. He was terrified and disquieted with his situations, and questioned himself of his own identity. In the story, “he doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another man…does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?” However, he finally went back to the reality. Life went on, and he became the witness of the old generation and the new generation.
Furthermore, Rip Van Winkle’s awakening represented an idea of the awakening from the American dream. Before Rip Van Winkle went into the mountain, he had led a simple, idle American life under the colonization of the English government. When Rip met “a short square-built old fellow,” he encountered a transition of his life. Although the people he met were strange, he still joined them and had a drink with them; he couldn’t resist the temptation of the drink. All the enjoyments were like dreams to him. Like Rip, the Americans at the early stage of the independence of the America also faced the dreamlike situations of being independent. Then when Rip was awaken, he confronted a new world where things and people were different from the world he used to know. He was frightened. He knew things were changed; nevertheless, he had to face the reality, just like the Americans who had to face the disillusionment of the American dream.
Another point worth mentioning is in Rip Van Winkle, the author uses his unique techniques to enrich the story such as the ambiguous description for the reliability of the story and the detailed description about the views and characters. The feministic idea is also revealed in the story.
Reference of Pictures:
Rip Van Winkle