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Compare and contrast Irving’s Rip Van Winkle – Washington Irving’s Diction

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In his story of the Rip Van Winkle, Irving used his unique style of diction, which also developed a contrast between before and after the climax of the story. The major change of scene in the story takes place after Rip takes his nap in the mountains and there is a noteworthy change of Irving’s diction from this point onwards. In his description of the surrounding nature and the weather, a distinct contrast exists between the duration of twenty years.

The Kaatskill Mountain is the first feature to be introduced to the setting of the story. It is said that this branch of the Appalachian can be seen “swelling up to a noble height and lording it over the surrounding country.” The description of the mountain as having a height of noble status indicates Irving’s elaborate modification of the surroundings in the beginning of the story. The fact that the mountain is depicted as lording over the country gives it a majestic sense to the nature. In relation to the weather, the mountain is portrayed as having the quality of “magical hues” of blue and purple. The use of purple brings forward the idea of a majestic color and we can see that it was, by no means, a coincidence that this particular color was used to describe the mountain.

He also described the image of the mountain peak at sunset, “in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.” However, as the period of twenty years pass and Rip wakes up from his nap, Irving no longer uses his regal diction and instead, introduces a much more unadorned and civilized forms. His reference to the mountain lacks the style he was involved in previously. The change in Irving’s diction is an indication of how America, the country which was once under the rule of England, has developed into a country that sought Independence. The majestic elaboration refers to the royal power of England which disappears after Rip’s nap, along with Irving’s diction.

After his countenance with the stranger with the grizzled beard, Rip follows his trail past the ravine and comes to a hollow that is similar to a little amphitheater. In his description of the amphitheatre, “surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the brinks of which impending trees shot their branches, so that you only caught glimpses of the azure sky and the bright evening cloud.” Irving shows a clear and bold sketch of the surrounding scene and indicates the brightness of the sky in an elevated form. In contrast, he later describes the same area in a more modest and less elaborate tone, with indications of a “high impenetrable wall” and that “the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam.” In this quote, the stream is described with vigor and excitement that the American society has developed later on in the story, but the majestic style which was once present in his writing can no longer be found.

There also is a contrast in the type of bird he introduces to the story. In the beginning, an eagle is mentioned to create a regal image but later he says that, “he was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high in air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice.” He also mentions that the flock of crows did “seem to look down and scoff at the poor man’s perplexities.”

The Hudson River is another feature that is depicted with majestic diction, “He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far, below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with its reflection if a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.” Irving carefully creates an image of the Hudson River with elegance and he even modifies it as the “lordly Hudson.” Out of all the natural sights Irving describes, the Hudson has the strongest elaboration and the august feel. After all this ample description before Rip’s nap, he simply goes back to indicate the existence of the Hudson with a sentence “there ran the silver Hudson at a distance.”

Irving uses his unique form of style and word usage to emphasize the change that took place between the two differentiating time-before and after Rip Van Winkle’s nap. The nature has been used to represent America’s political status at the time and Irving has applied the appropriate diction for each period of time. In the beginning of the story when the royal power of England is present, Irving introduced majestic word usage and personifies the Kaatskill Mountain as the English powers which watch over the village as means of protecting it. However, this particular style does not reappear later in the story, when English powers are not longer present, and instead is replaced by the excitement and the involvement of the villagers in talks of Independence.

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