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Rip Van Winkle: The Value of Traditions and Freedom

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Introduction

Nobody can sleep 20 years in a row. It is a medical fact. However, a long and enduring sleep can become a perfect allegory of change and continuity in fiction. This is what happens to the protagonist of Washington Irving's story "Rip Van Winkle": the man goes into the woods "to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife" (Irving). The protagonist falls into a deep sleep to wake up twenty years later. He comes back to a village that is surprisingly new to him. The central theme of this short story is the way the past and the present are related, and the severity of the social, cultural, and historical change the country had to endure after the American Revolution. The significance of the theme can hardly be underscored: the American Revolution became a crucial event in the development of the U.S.'s independence and power. However, Washington Irving's story is good not only because it speaks about the revolutionary moods. I believe that the story is good, because it confirms the value of freedom, importance of traditions, and the benefits of giving back to the community through hard work.

Washing Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" is good, because it tells the story of freedom and confirms its value. Rip Van Winkle returns to his village after the American Revolution and sees a profound change in public moods: "They crowded around him, eyeing him from head to foot, with great curiosity. The orator […] inquired "on which side he voted?" […] Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear, "whether he was Federal or Democrat" (Irving). In other words, Rip Van Winkle witnesses the growing diversity of political opinions and meanings, which signify the importance of free political choice. As a member of the earlier generation and a person who has not directly participated in the American Revolution, Rip Van Winkle does not understand the difference between Federals and Democrats. He knows nothing about voting. His village is no longer as orderly and quiet as it used to be under the King. Now, it is independent from England and must become much more productive in order to survive. The confusion over new political freedoms, meanings, and conflicts is obvious. It is just the beginning of the new road towards happiness. However, it is confusion that motivates the villagers to make sense of the world, develop new relationships and build a new, independent country based on their historical values, traditions, and commitments.

The story of Rip Van Winkle is good, because it confirms the importance of continuity and traditions. Rip Van Winkle sees a new village, a piece of a totally new country, but he cannot ignore the fact that many things have remained the same. "Surely, it was his native village, which he had left but the day before. There stood the Catskill Mountains – there ran the silver Hudson at a distance – there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always been" (Irving). Here, nature is a symbol of historical stability and the country's continuous commitment to its values and traditions. Even in the presence of new political and cultural principles, the value of family, friendship, and mutual support remains unchanged. In this new village, which is also the old native village, Rip Van Winkle meets his daughter, his son, and his grandson. He finds his house, already abandoned and forlorn, but still carrying the spirit of his family and being full of the colorful memories of his deceased wife (Irving). This abandoned house also symbolizes the continuity of the most sacred community values, which give the entire story a very promising, hopeful, and positive tone. The story is good, because it shows how family ties can endure over time, even when revolutionary changes take place. It is on these traditions and family ties that the village will continue building a new, independent society, and every member will work to contribute to the community's wellbeing.

Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" is very good, because it shows how giving back to the community through hard work benefits people. Due to his remarkable reputation, Rip Van Winkle is easily reintegrated into the new village community. He is remembered for everything he had done for other villagers before the American Revolution. "The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles" (Irving). Rip Van Winkle's entire life before the Revolution had been community-oriented. He was greatly valued for his community contributions, and his villagers genuinely missed him, when he disappeared in the woods to re-appear twenty years later. The story of Rip Van Winkle is very positive in the sense that it reaffirms the eternal value of the moral, spiritual, and historical commitments. It shows that, even in the times of the most profound political changes, their success depends on the communities' loyalty to their history and its achievements.

Conclusion

Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" is a unique story that sends a very positive message. This story is good, because is describes the value of freedom, reminds of the importance of cultural and historic traditions, and confirms the benefits of serving the community through hard work. Rip Van Winkle comes back to a village that hardly resembles his native land. He feels the spirit of freedom and sees the growing diversity of political opinions. As the same time, he finds his family and is successfully reintegrated into his community. He is remembered for his commitment to work and the many good things he had done for his villagers. The story's positive tone reinforces a simple belief that even the most dramatic revolutionary changes cannot be successful without a strong commitment to history, family, and culture. Will Rip Van Winkle regret the years he has spent sleeping? This is the question the reader will have to answer.

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