The Importance Of Myth In Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle

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The great paradox of American culture is the need to redefine or create their past, likening themselves to the great and previous civilizations. Since America during this time just starts to take form, there is this sense that the culture and literature are inferior in comparison to preexisting, traditionally rich countries such as England. Being a new nation that encompasses a different history and ideals it, therefore, needs its own sense of identity. This desire to clarify and establish a national identity begets the creation of the American myth. The myth though fails because it does not embody the whole of American society or an accurate account of history. This is prevalent in Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle which satirizes America’s need for a myth, having Rip embody negative aspects…show more content…
From beginning to end, Irving demolishes the credibility of the myth, with things such as the invention of the historian Knickerbocker to the judge. Irving points out the flaws that exist in America through the use of Rip. When he does not recognize himself this is synonymous with America’s inability to recognize or define themselves. The society is not in harmony with its thought’s and action’s which disillusions the purpose of the myth giving them a sense of identity. Irving plays off of various inspirations and his character Rip undergoes the typical heroic journey. Although his ends in an impasse. The lines between reality and fiction, what is credible and not, blur suggesting that the myth America will create for itself is disingenuous. The need and desire to fabricate the past results in no real accountability or adequate satisfaction to society. The story proves that society does not want to recognize its past. It wants to create one that justifies their current actions. A history that people forge will never be indicative of society. The myth, therefore, fails to establish a sense of national
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