Rip Van Winkle
The characters in Rip Van Winkle and Young Goodman Brown written respectively by Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne leave their individual communities and return with radically different perspectives (of their current lives) that change their attitudes and way of life in the remaining of their lives. Both stories are set in early American villages, Young Goodman Brown takes place in the 1700’s New England puritan settlement while Rip Van Winkle takes place over 100 years later in an English colony in eastern New York.
Both authors were very clever to use different historical context to illustrate cultural aspects of early American societies in order to make the reader aware of how big of a role gender, politics and religion where to the societies. Strange/Supernatural forces challenge and would radically change both characters when they depart from their individual village and head into the forest/mountains and on their perspective, individual journeys. The external scenery that both of the authors provide, has both liberal and figurative meanings that simulate Rip Van Winkle’s and Young Goodman Brown’s experiences.
Both characters go into dream-like states and are forced to face problems that would eventually expose their true identities. This shorts stories conclude with transformations in the two characters internal perspectives and external perceptions towards their respective communities and time periods.
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Young Goodman Brown and Rip Van Winkle illustrate their early American life in a puritan village and New English colony. Overall, one of the most important details in the stories are the relationships these characters have with their wives.
In the beginning of Young Goodman Brown, Brown adores his newly wed wife named Faith who he ironically refers to as a blessed angel on Earth. Through out his journey Brown puts his wife in a pedestal of purity despite learning the truth about his brother. Brown’s attitudes starts to change toward Faith during a dream that convinces him of her spiritual demise that is been represented by the symbolic pink ribbons that are falling of the sky. Faiths pink ribbons are a symbol of her virtue, innocence, and purity.
The image of the pink ribbons falling from the sky marks the start of the radical transformation of Brown’s feelings towards his wife Faith and his former self towards his society. When Brown returns from his night (dream) in the forest his reaction towards Faith is as if she was a repulsive stranger and is no longer the loving wife he held with high respect and in a pedestal. The story ends with Faith and Brown’s children following Brown’s funeral procession. In the beginning of Rip Van Winkle, Rip is portrayed as lazy husband who would do anything for others except his own husbandly duties.
Rip Van Winkle’s wife, Dame Winkle, who is nothing like her husband goes around doing her wifely duties, as a wife and mother, regardless whether her husband Rip meets her needs. Despite been such a likeable person to his friends and neighbors, Winkle makes his wife’s life complicated. Dame Van Winkle is the typical wife that takes care of the obligations she has at home while Rip refuses to be productive around the house. The story emphasis’s how relentlessly Dame nags Rip. However if Rip had assumed his share of household responsibilities perhaps Rip might not have felt an impact.
Dame’s life is further complicated by the absence of 20 years of her husband. When Rip returns Dame is dead and he is taken in by his daughter who replaces the maternal role that his wife (dame) had previously occupied. The external scene plays an important role in Rip’s life. The mountains where he goes to hunt are referred to as magical and fairy place, foreshadowing Winkles encounter with the supernatural. In the mountain Rip decides to stay the night ironically this is just where he sleeps for the next 20 years.
The branches and the vines that are in Rip’s way on his trip back home are a metaphor for the difficulties that he will soon face back home. The same can be said of the shadowy sinister forest that Brown encounters, this is an indication of the man he will soon become. The dark cloud that Brown sees in the sky is can be a symbol of the dark magic that lies in the center of the forest. Supernatural elements and beings that display mischief in both stories have an important role in both Young and Rip lives.
The person Brown meets in the forest displays weird characteristics. This individual is capable of running at abnormal speeds, turns a staff into a snake, and creates a walking stick that allows Brown to transport himself into the center of the forest . This person is later identified to be the devil, is able to change his appearance at will and appears similar to Young Goodman’s grandfather. Brown also observes members of his church, who are witches and wizards, attend a diabolical ceremony. Brown then observes the ceremony being performed by his fellow members.
Unlike the evil that Brown experiences, the supernatural things that Rip experiences are nothing of evilness but more of people who enjoy their respective time. While Rip goes up to the mountains with his beloved dog to avoid his wife and hunts for squirrels, he is approached by a group of people who are in a gathering in the mountains, he is invited to join them and he steals a drink which evidently leads to his journey. Brown and Rips life’s are completely altered by the encounters of these supernatural beings and elements during their journeys.
Both characters struggle with their identities after becoming lost in their dreams where they were unable to identify reality. Rip discovers that his existence has been erased from the villagers minds after 20 years of absence. Both his nagging wife, Dame, and his loving dog which where his daily aspects of his life are now dead. The new ideas and their patriotism of the villagers are different to Rip’s due to the fact that he had slept through one of America’s greatest moments the American Revolution.
Rip goes into a deep confusion when he sees his son, who is now a grown man and who is the precise counterpart of himself, just as he went up the mountain. The appearance of his son makes Rip comprehend the gravity of the situation he is now in. Goodman Brown also experiences something similarly when he is trapped in his world were he discovers the unchristian secrets of his town and even worse his wife’s secrets. He also has confusion on who he is, even the devil with who he meets physically resembles him. Brown is also confused when the devil tells him that he had also had several meetings with Brown’s grandfather and father.
Technically, Brown is only away one night but to him it seems along time, at the same time Rip’s 20 years of absence is also one night. Both, Hawthorne and Irving, illustrate American civilization and culture. Natives Americans are represented as evil beings hiding in the forest . While Goodman Brown is walking to the forest he would turn around to see if they weren’t hiding in the trees. When Rip returns back to his village, the villagers tell him that there where rumors that he was carried away by the Indians. References to native Americans demonstrate the mentality of early American towards civilizations that lived ere long before their colonization. In Rip Van Winkle, Irving provides examples of the change of attitudes of colonist before and after the revolutionary war. When Rip wakes up from his 20 year nap he is confronted by the villagers and they ask him what is his “role”, he makes the mistake of saying he is loyal to England and therefore, he is accused of being a spy . Their accusations illustrate the beginning of individual freedom that they now had after winning their Revolution. Hawthorne uses Goodman Brown to proof that the puritans in the village were not really pure.
He demonstrates how the puritans would violently pursue people who had other belief systems. For instance, the devil tells Goodman how his past relatives had lashed Quaker women and set fire to an Indian village. To further demonstrate this Brown was giving the ability to witness first hand every sin that his puritan brothers had committed. By the end of both stories the inner self of the characters had undergone a major transformation. The previous role that they had in their earlier communities and lives had also transformed.
Brown was aware of the sins of his neighbor, therefore his beliefs about his community had radically changed . His relationship with his wife is no longer a union of love but more of an obligation that he had. The things that the devil had shown Brown had impend him from moving on. After living his life as a cynical person, he dies. Au contraire Rip had become a living legend in his community, somewhat of a war hero, he would always retell his story to other town’s folks in the cavern . He is now free of his wife, who had always been an intrusion in his life.
Despite feeling belligerent at the villagers new political stance Rip was now glad he was happy, a free man. Rip’s attitude remains the same but 20 years later he is old enough that a man his age can be taken lightly. Rip’s new perception has change the image of himself, he is now a free husband/hero in the village instead of a lazy husband. As for Brown, the perception he gained, made him more of an open minded person to the sins of the villagers in his community. After his journey through the forest is over he has to live with the burden of the knowledge that not all puritans where pure.