My Critique Against and Envy of Van Winkle’s Carefree Way of Living in Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”
My Critique Against and Envy of Van Winkle’s Carefree Way of Living in Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”
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  • 승인 2018.07.04 16:30
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Cho Eun-kyung
Department of English Language & Literature

When I read this work for the first time, I thought it was only a stor y about a person with a strange experience in the vicinity of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. I just loved the way Irving described the scenery of America, yet I didn’t even realize the story’s temporal background. I think this story has some hidden meanings in terms of characters, their words, and the descriptions of towns, and so on. Here, I want to mention my first impression about the characters and the intriguing scenes that still come to my mind and what I think about this short story. Just taking the characters into account apart from the historical background of the story, the main character, Rip Van Winkle, seems to be an idealist or a romanticist and merely a kind person to the other villagers. I thought that he didn’t do much wrong to be henpecked so harshly by his wife. I think he should not have married her from the beginning because he was born to be free and happy-go-lucky. Hence, I have to confess, while I was reading the story at first, I wanted to live like him, as someone who does not care about household chores at all, doing only the things that give pleasure. I didn’t want to get married because I was unaware of the importance of married life as a procedure of accomplishing mutual love and taking consequent responsibility. However, now I consider him to be irresponsible although I envy him a bit. He has to make a living not solely for himself but also for his family. Therefore, only caring about his neighbors doesn’t make sense at all to me. Now I feel pity for his wife who has to deal with all the annoying chores and her messy children. The reason I still envy him though is that Van Winkle doesn’t care about the troubles that necessarily happen in a competitive society, such as the one that I belong to. Unlike Van Winkle, as a person living in a modern competitive society, I have to stick with a similar life plan to my fellow students. These kinds of mixed attitudes – that is, my critique against and envy of Van Winkle’s carefree way of living – exist paradoxically in my mind.

The writer seems to describe Van Winkle as a representation of the United States and Dame Van Winkle, his wife, a representation of the United Kingdom respectively. I think Van Winkle’s personality is as free as the United States is assumed to be. The United States is basically founded by British immigrants who wanted religious freedom, but I think that the United States has a spirit of freedom, not exclusively on a religious level, but in diverse areas also. Especially for those who came to North America in the 1800s, I guess, living like Van Winkle wouldn’t have been seen as merely lazy. There must have been the people who maintained a similar life style and manner of living as Van Winkle’s. Just as the United States usually represents freedom, so Van Winkle, leading his life as he desires, can be regarded as the embodiment of the United States of America.

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