All well written stories are composed of specific elements that capture the reader’s imagination and thoughts. An author is usually identified by a definitive style, whether it be romance, historical, the use of suspense, and even biographical. Successful authors such as Washington Irving, use particular literary elements including a well thought out and instructive theme, characterization, and setting. These helped compose a story that would entertain and maintain the reader’s interest. In the story “Rip Van Winkle”, Irving focused upon an intuitive theme or insight about human life that is revealed in a literary piece. Irving’s ability to construct a creative setting or time and location in which a story takes place, allowed the readers ability to effectively focus upon the story. While the theme and setting played significant roles in maintaining the reader’s interest, his use of effective characterization or process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character, helped in obtaining the reader’s imagination through out the story.
Irving’s ability to appeal to the reader’s senses effectively establishes the setting. Visual descriptions such as “when the weather is fair and settled they are clothed in blue and purple” and “small yellow bricks” allowed the reader to quickly visualize the setting. Irving’s use of emotive language, by introducing words such as “henpecked husband”, “squabbles”, and “evening gossiping”, allowed the reader to identify emotions and feel part of the story. The effective use of auditory senses added interest to the setting, such as “the birds were hopping and twittering through out the bushes” and “the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder”. The use of time and location played an important part of the waking of Rip Van Winkle, the author makes use of this to describe to the reader the changes that have occurred over the twenty-year span. The use of appealing sensory descriptions through out the story allowed the reader to become involved and stay connected to the setting and characters.
Irving’s usage of characterization was certainly effective and powerful through the story. Rip Van Winkle was described as a very likeable character that was willing to “assist any neighbor even in the roughest toil”, “but found it impossible to do his family duties and keep the farm in order”. He would help build stone fences, husk Indian corn, and run errands for the village women. However, on his own farm he declared, “it was no use of work”. Irving allowed the reader to view the differences of characters and the effects they had upon one another by placing two different personalities together. Rip had a happy disposition, unlike his wife who henpecked her husband and had a tart temper. By placing two very unlike characters together, it led to many disagreements and fights. By the end of the story the reader should have felt compassionate towards Rip due multiple situations he was placed in by the author.
Irving introduces a theme and was able to maintain an interest from the beginning of the story to the end. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone or anything, and if one doesn’t take opportunity one is offered, it may be lost forever. Irving demonstrated this by the use of twenty-year span in which Rip falls asleep, and wakes to a whole different environment. Some of his long time friends have aged considerably and some have even died during this period. The author uses this to demonstrate how important it is to make use of the moment and not allow time to slip away.
Washington Irving’s use of these elements created a very descriptive and enjoyable story to read. He effectively intertwined these elements together to maintain the reader’s focus and interest in the story. The use of a well thought out theme, detailed descriptive setting, and interesting contrast of characterization all effectively combined forming a classical tale.