Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle is embedded deeply in the fabric of American culture. Along with Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, this character has been referenced in popular media for nearly two centuries. This story takes place during the time of the American Revolutionary War and follows a man after he drinks some home brewed liquor from a mysterious stranger and awakens eighteen years later.
The changes experienced by the protagonist during a relatively short period of time are cataclysmic. The status of the world he knew is spun out of control. He is forced to quickly try to understand the manner in which his surroundings had changed. In short order, he learns his wife had died, his friends are gone and his children are adults. Along with these revelations, he is also declared a traitor as he supports the government that he knew to be in power.
This story plays on your emotions and you see the drastic shift Van Winkle must digest. Though the evidence is there, he has difficulty accepting how different everything is. He has missed multiple family moments and memories, time forgot him. Van Winkle must also digest the stigma of his own reputation. Having just disappeared without explanation his family and neighbors assumed thought the worst of him for almost two decades.
The most enjoyable part of this story is easily the political implications. The average man, ignorant to current events unknowingly supporting the former regime is met with violent rebuke. The idea that in a few years, someone can shift from a loyal patriot to an enemy is fascinating. It further highlights the consequences of having missed so much in a short period of time. This forces the reader to capitalize on the time they have and not waste it. Irving does an excellent job pushing so much thought into such a short story. This is well worth your time clocking in at under thirty minutes, it is deserving of reading and continual adaptations.
Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans pod cast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his work here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here or download his e-book here. Be sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.