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Rip Van Winkle2

When superficially read, Washington Irving’s short story “Rip Van Winkle” seems to be a simple tale of an unhappily married man whose happy-go-lucky, carefree attitude gains him loving adoration from the village women, children, and dogs; but only scorn from his wretched wife. However, when read more closely, the story takes on an entirely different meaning. Through his constant references to Dame Van Winkle and her turbulent relationship with Rip, Irving gives a perfect metaphoric image of the relationship between America and Great Britain: agitated, uneasy, and up-in-arms. First of all, Rip is described as “a henpecked husband” (430), which would make Dame Van Winkle the pecking hen. In the pre-Revolutionary War days the colonies saw themselves as also being henpecked by Great Britain- this meaning that they were being bossed around and unfairly controlled by the mother country and British rulers. As Rip is returning to the village after waking up he “heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle” (433), and upon returning to his house he was “expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle” (435). These thoughts mirror the feelings of the American colonists towards dealing with Britain. They were very defensive of their actions when interrogated by the British, as Rip also worried, “What excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?” (434). They were clearly unsatisfied with their ruling, but still very intimidated, much like Rip was practically forced into submission by his more than controlling wife. Great Britain made its opinions known anytime it felt that the colonies were not following the laws and guidelines previously set for them, or when it thought the colonies were “over-stepping their boundaries” so to speak. Not surprisingly, Dame Van Winkle was the same way with Rip. Irving wrote ...

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