"Rip Van Winkle": An Analysis

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The tale of ‘Rip Van Winkle’ can be read as a political allegory of Britain’s relation with her American colonies and as an Anti-Feminist discourse. These readings can be defined through analysis of the dynamics between Rip Van Winkle and the Dame. From this one can explore the themes of Monarchy, the Ego, Marriage and Motherhood.

The strong and dominate character of the Dame and the Passive idleness of rip creates a strong allusion to the relations between Great Britain and her colonies. The Dame can be seen as a Monarchical figure through her demands on rip.

‘What courage can withstand the ever-during and all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue?’

This quote suggests that the Dame’s tongue is a continual source of trouble for Rip; from this the one can infer that the Dame is a symbol for Great Britain’s taxation on goods going to and from the colonies and also the sustained British military presence through out colonial territories. Moreover, if one sees the Dame as a monarch, Rip can be seen to be representative of the colonists who seek to escape authority and live by their own rules.

‘He was fain to draw off his forces, and to take to the outside of the house-the only side which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.’

This quote illustrates the power the Dame has over Rip and how he is forced out of society and into the wilds for solace. The word ‘forces’ has militaristic undertones and creates a sensation of hierarchy with the Dame at its peak. One could suggest that the house symbolises Europe as the home of Monarchy and the Dame whilst Rip’s escape into the woods symbolises the repressed elements of European society escaping to the new world to create their own communities and live by own values. One...

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...otherhood, with the dame seen as the mother nation giving authority to the childish colonists. The superego’s moral identity is created by the mother teaching right and wrongs to children at a young age. Thus we can argue that the theme of motherhood runs through both readings, political and feminist.

Thereby, one can see that the theme of motherhood is running theme that threads the political and the feminist readings together. Whether the Dame represents the monarch, the super ego, the wife, one can find aspects of motherhood within each. For every authority that the Dame represents Rip is constantly antithetical to her position as the colonist, the ego and the husband, each of which similar due to there essential need to challenge authority. Thus it is productive to read ‘Rip Van Winkle’ as a challenge to authority in the feminist and political ideologies.

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