Confusion and Personal Identity in Rip Van Winkle

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Rip Van Winkle tells the story of a man who, on a trek into the Kaatskill mountains, mysteriously sleeps away twenty years of his life during the Revolutionary War. When he returns home, he finds that things have dramatically changed; King George no longer has control over the colonies, and many of his friends have either died or left town. At this point, the story reaches its climax, where Van Winkle realizes that his life may be forever changed.

To this point, Rip Van Winkle has had only to deal with the change in his surroundings. Having no doubts about his personal character, his fears remain singular only briefly, for when the crowd points to a man whom they call Rip Van Winkle, he begins to question his being as well. "I'm not myself-I'm somebody else-that's me yonder-no-that's somebody else, got into my shoes..."

Frustration has set in by this point, as our hero Rip cannot explain the events that have happened to him. In one night, his world had drastically changed, and no logical explanation can be found. The larger issue at hand, though, is the identity crisis that Van Winkle is suffering. Upon a detailed analysis of this climactic section, two dominating themes are found: confusion and the issue of personal identity. There are constant references to these ideas throughout the selection.

That Van Winkle is confused seems obvious and is quite understandable, but this confusion extends beyond the bizarre sequence of events encountered. When Rip notices the person that the township refers to as Rip Van Winkle, it is as though he is looking into a mirror, for this person portrays a "precise counterpoint of himself." Although Rip visually sees this other person, his examination becomes a personal reflect...

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...oncerns over which groups would provide leadership for the masses, and how those masses were to be represented. Men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin, who had provided great leadership for this fledgling nation, were leaving the fate of America in new hands. The pessimists voiced their opinions, but there was a great feeling off optimism as the Industrial Revolution began to harbor its effects throughout the United States and the world.

The issue of identity seemed a pertinent issue at the time. In this story, Rip Van Winkle's search for identity provides, perhaps, the most stimulating aspect of the story. In the selected passage, we see his character go through tremendous emotional changes. In only one paragraph, we watch his life unfold as he searches for the inner truth that he had been denying. In one paragraph, we watched a man find himself.
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