irving Rips Satire

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With the end of the American Revolution, came an explosion of politicians hoping to influence the young democracy. At the time various political groups were attempting to fashion America politics into their vision of democracy. It was only natural that literature in the country at the time began showing the influence of this newly created democracy. Born in New York in 1783 and named for the American Revolution hero and first president, Washington Irving grew up a nation engulfed in the democratic passions. An atmosphere of this kind of politics could lend the idea that Irving would satire politics of this time. This satirical writing can be seen in the nature of the historical references and symbolic characters Irving uses in “Rip Van Winkle” where he mockingly compares colonial life under British rule to the young democracy that is the United States of his time. The first instance of satire is in the name of Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was, according to Wikipedia, the Director-General in power when the British seized New Netherland (who promptly re-named it New York) from the Dutch. The narrator renders a false respect for Stuyvesant in order to point to the reality that he is responsible for the loss of New Netherland to the English. He has set the scene by personifying his narrator as a Dutch descendant named Diedrich Knickerbocker and specifically sets the tale “while the country was yet a Province of Great Britain” (Irving). This juxtaposing of praise for a Dutch ruler with the reality of British rule satires the loss of America by both nations. Next the story introduces Dame Van Winkle, Rip’s stern wife. She maintains contempt for her husband’s “insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor” (Irving). This tyrannic... ... middle of paper ... ... is mocking the lack of importance of the dramatic changes he feels many Americans are exhibiting. The one aspect of his former life that he is glad to have lost is what is Irving refers to as “petticoat government:” Dame Van Winkle no longer had a tight grip on his affairs, “he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony” and now he was truly free ” (Irving). With one last satirical blow to what he considers the values of his present society, the narrator closes the story with a note from the invented author, Diedrich Knickerbocker. In this note he explains that while the events discussed in the story may seem questionable, he has talked with Rip himself. Furthermore, he says that a judge signed a certificate and thus implying “[t]he story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of a doubt:” the narrator is mocking the powers of justice to always be right (Irving).
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