5 - Rip Van Winkle (revised C)

At times the reader may feel sorry for the somewhat "pathetic” Rip Van Winkle, the hero of Washington Irvin’s story by that name, 'Rip Van Winkle'. Other times the reader may envy Rip Van Winkle, as a man who did exactly what he wanted. The passage below shows how other people viewed Van Winkle:

"Because he was kind and gentle, Rip was popular with all of his neighbors. Children especially loved him, for he would play with them, make them toys, and tell them stories. No one had a cross word for Rip–except his wife, who, taking advantage of his meekness, regularly nagged him. Her treatment of him earned Rip the sympathy of other wives."(719)
As you can see by the previous passage, Van Winkle was loved by everyone, except his wife. Feelings of sorrow may emerge while reading about how she abused Van Winkle throughout the story. Only in her death does she cease to nag and abuse him.

However, Van Winkle still managed to go about his day doing the things that he wanted to do, such as fixing a neighbor’s roof, playing with a neighbor’s child, helping with a neighbor’s farming or just spend the day fishing. Most often Van Winkle abandoned his spousal and parental responsibilities by removing himself from the home, which further angered his wife.

“Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution." (721)
Ultimately and ironically Van Winkle escaped his responsibilities by falling asleep for twenty years. This put him into a situation that allowed him to spend his days exactly as he pleased, as is illustrated in this final passage:

"Rip went to live with his daughter and her farmer husband. Rip went for walks, took up his old habits, and even found a few of his old friends. However, he preferred the company of the younger generation. .......At an age when he could do as he pleased, which was to say nothing, he began sitting on the bench in front of the Doolittle's Hotel. There the villagers looked upon him as one of their patriarchs." (728)


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