What Makes a Story American Literature?

Topics: Short story, Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle Pages: 2 (763 words) Published: September 22, 2008
There is no rules or guidelines to classify certain stories as American Literature. So, what makes a story American Literature?
“Rip Van Winkle,” by Washington Irving, is a profound short story and an example of American Literature. “Rip Van Winkle” is about a man who falls asleep for several years. He finally wakes up and he sees that the places around him have changed tremendously. When he returns to the village no one remembers him, except an old villager, who verifies his story. Washington Irving was born in 1783 and died in 1859. He was the first American writer to achieve fame in Europe. His mentors included other great American writers such as, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Irving had written essays, biographies on George Washington and Muhammad, and short stories. He also spoke out against the mistreatment of Native Americans by Europeans (F.D. Hunt, ACAS 125 lecture, January 28, 2008). In writing “Rip Van Winkle,” Irving was the first belletrist, or a person who writes for pleasure rather than for practical use. Irving also introduced non-fiction as a genre (F.D. Hunt, ACAS 125 lecture, January 28, 2008). “Rip Van Winkle” is an eponymous character, meaning the main character is named the same as the title (F.D. Hunt, ACAS 125 lecture, January 28, 2008). In discussion about “Rip Van Winkle”, major changes occurred from when he fell asleep to when he woke up, such as America had won independence from Great Britain, his daughter grew up and has her own children, and an economic shift from rural to urban (F.D. Hunt, ACAS 125 lecture, January 28, 2008). Irving wrote, “The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the windows—every thing was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not...
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