Differences in Time
Washington Irving loved exploring. How do I know this? By simply looking at his piece titled “The Author’s Account of Himself” and his story “Rip Van Winkle.” He didn’t just love exploring new places but times as well.
In “The Author’s Account of Himself,” Irving discusses growing up and adventuring around his village and then eventually to faraway places. Reading about new places became something he adored, as learned when he writes, “Books of voyages and travels became my passion, and in devouring their contents, I neglected the regular exercises of the school” (469). I can very much relate to this — being so caught up in story, in escaping regular life, that you neglect your other responsibilities. Irving was interested in the past of the places he explored as well as their present state. He writes of Europe, “There were to be seen the masterpieces of art, the refinements of highly cultivated society, the quaint peculiarities of ancient and local custom. […] Her very ruins told the history of times gone by, and every mouldering stone was a chronicle” (469). Irving’s interest in the past and present is something he carried over in “Rip Van Winkle.”
“Rip Van Winkle” follows a man for whom the story is titled. In an elevator summary, Rip Van Winkle falls asleep after drinking too much and awakens almost 20 years later to find that nothing is the same. Van Winkle does what Irving himself probably yearned to do — to see a place from a different time. Van Winkle recognized no one in the town. Everyone he knew had gone off to war or died. His own house had “gone to decay — the roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges” (Irving 478). Back on page 470 in “The Author’s Account of Himself,” Irving states that he wanted to walk “in the footsteps of antiquity” by exploring ruined castles and fallen towers. His antiquity is here in Van Winkle’s home. Van Winkle knew what this ruined place once looked like in its glory.
Washington Irving’s stated passion for exploring new places can be found in his short story “Rip Van Winkle.” I’m sure many people interpreted the story differently from me, but reading “The Author’s Account of Himself” and “Rip Van Winkle” back to back has shown me similarities between the title character and the author.