The Round, Flat, and Stock Characters of Rip Van Winkle

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One particular criterion character effectively supports the central idea in “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving. The character's type develops with the personality development throughout the story. Three types of characters: round, flat, and stock, appear in most stories. The round character displays a fully developed personality and full emotions. Flat characters, also known as supporting characters, do not develop fully or express complex emotions. A stock character, also known as a stereotype, fits an established characterization from real life or literature. With these three types of characters leading the reader through the story, the reader learns the events taking place as well as the changes in the character’s lives. The author keeps the reader informed of the changes affecting the characters throughout the narrative through style. When a character undergoes a fundamental change in nature or personality during the story, the character has dynamic style. However, a character without change defines a static character. Although all characters have a style and type sometimes understanding the differences appears complicated. A chart often helps establish a better understanding of character type and style.


The author uses one main character, at most, two; only the protagonist and the antagonist exist as major characters. “Rip Van Winkle”, Washington Irving uses one main character to play both the role of the protagonist and the antagonist. In paragraph three lines, six and seven, the reader meets the protagonist. “…a simple good-natured fellow of the name of Rip Van Winkle” In paragraphs five and nine, lines one and two, and one and four, respectively, the reader encounters the antagonist. “The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion for all kinds of labor.” “…Rip would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.” Even though, in both cases where the reader encounters Rip Van Winkle, Rip only counts as one main character. Characterization occurs when the author draws an overall picture of the characters. Characterization happens in two ways in literature, by description and personality. The author uses the words a story to describe a character or imply the appearance of the characters through the text of the story. Introducing the personality of the character to the reader in words give or describe the personality of the characters or the words used imply certain things about the character. The protagonist in “Rip Van Winkle” the reader first meets in paragraph three, lines seven and eight, “… a simple good-natured fellow of the name of Rip Van Winkle.

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"The Round, Flat, and Stock Characters of Rip Van Winkle." 28 Feb 2017

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” The reader assumes the appearance of Rip from the preceding paragraphs in which the author sets the general timeframe in the colonial era before and after the American Revolutionary war. Musclat best describes Rip because of all of the physical labor done in chores. Rip also had light hair with blue eyes. Rip’s dress was that of the day: black suits with fluffy white collars, tri-cornered hats, and brass buckles on the black shoes. Good natured and helpful best describes Rip’s attitude, this good faith towards all that eventually lands Rip in trouble.


The antagonist in “Rip Van Winkle” the reader first encounters in paragraph five, lines one and two. Also, the reader discovers additional information in paragraph eight lines nine and ten. “…eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.” This quotation symbolizes Rip’s attitude of doing what takes less effort and not doing work when not watched. Whenever Rip could, Rip would wonder to the porch of the local inn. Authors help the reader understand where a character’s values lie by using character archetypes or original patterns or models of a character type. In “Rip Van Winkle”, only one such archetype exists. The archetype, Hunting Group of Companions, fits the group of Van Bummel, Vedder, Rip, and Dutcher. In paragraph ten, the reader meets the group. “For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village…” In the group, the members sat on the Inn porch and engaged in deep conversation. Rip inquired about the club of the sages after sleeping for twenty years. The lesson taught by the author through the actions of the protagonist in the plot either through what the protagonist does or does not do. The universal truth presents an idea assumed true by the masses worldwide that teaches a lesson.


The universal truth for “Rip Van Winkle” “Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be”. This truth becomes evident in “Rip Van Winkle” by Rip himself. Because Rip always chooses to do the chores of others, the dilapidated Van Winkle home never gets fixed and the fields, never farmed. In “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving, the author excellently expressed the central idea of the short story. The explanation of character and the use of specific information form the story demonstrate how effectively this aspect of short story structure supports the overall idea. Six other criteria plot, central idea, setting, tone, language and narrative viewpoint, explore all support aspects of the central idea in short story writing. The short story presents a single plot structure and a main character that develop the central focus through these seven aspects. Analyzing the specific parts allows the reader to understand and appreciate the instructional value of the short story form of literature.

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