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Biography: ashington Irving was born in New York City (near present-day
Wall Street) at the end of the Revolutionary War on April 3, 1783. His parents, ScottishEnglish immigrants, were great admirers of General George Washington, and named their son after their hero. Irving had many interests including writing, architecture and landscape design, traveling, and diplomacy. He is best known, however, as the first American to make a living solely from writing. Initially, he wrote under pen names; one was "Diedrich Knickerbocker." In 1809, using this pen name, Irving wrote A History of New-York that describes and pokes fun at the lives of the early Dutch settlers of Manhattan. Eventually, this pen name came to mean a person from New York, and is where the basketball team The New York Knickerbockers (Knicks)got its name. Irving enjoyed visiting different places and a large part of his life was spent in Europe, particularly England, France, Germany, and Spain. He often wrote about the places he visited. For example, Bracebridge Hall (1822) is a view of life in England, and The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828), is about the Italian explorer who sailed under the Spanish flag. However, in spite of his foreign travels, Irving's imagination frequently drew upon his childhood memories of New York State. These memories are reflected in letters that he wrote to family and friends from Europe, as well as in the stories from his most famous work, The Sketch-Book. Published in 1819 under another pen name, "Geoffrey Crayon, Gent," The Sketch-Book includes the short stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. The fictional Sleepy Hollow is actually the lower Hudson Valley area near Tarrytown, N.Y., and Rip Van Winkle sleeps through the entire Revolutionary War in the Catskill mountains of upstate New York. By the late 1820s, Irving had gained a reputation throughout Europe and America as a great writer and thinker. Because of his popularity, Irving received many important honors. This Spanish were so pleased with Irving's writing that in 1828, they elected him to the Real Academia de la Historia. In 1830, Irving received a gold medal in history from the Royal Society of Literature in London, and also received honorary degrees from Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard. Trained as a lawyer, Irving was active in the field of diplomacy. In 1842, American President Tyler appointed him Minister to Spain - a position we would now call ambassador. This meant he traveled throughout Europe as a diplomatic representative of the United States.

Feeling a desire to be among fellow Americans and his family, in 1832 Irving returned from Europe to New York where he established his home Sunnyside in Tarrytown. Irving never married or had children. Rather, for the next twenty-five years he shared Sunnyside with his brother Ebenezer and Ebenezer's five daughters. During this period, when Irving traveled or was sent on a diplomatic mission, he always had a home and family to which to return. Sunnyside was visited By many artists, politicians, writers, and other influential people. Irving's home was publicized throughout the world in lithographs, magazines, and tourists maps. Images of Sunnyside could even be found on cigar boxes, sheet music, and ceramic pitchers. On November 28, 1859, on the eve of the Civil War, Washington Irving died at Sunnyside surrounded by his family. He was buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Plot summary; In this classic American tale, a hen-pecked Rip Van
Winkle wanders off with his dog Wolf into the Catskill mountains for some peace and quiet only to discover a group of strange characters playing nine-pins and drinking a even stranger brew. Despite warnings not to imbibe the drink, Rip sneaks a taste and falls into a deep sleep. Upon waking Rip discovers Wolf has wandered off and thinks someone has played a prank on him when he finds a rusted out weapon at his side instead of his own rifle. Wandering back into the village Rip Van Winkle is shocked to realize he no longer recognizes anyone and that things seem unfamiliar. Suspicions are arosed that Rip may be a Tory spy loyal to the crown since his knowledge of current affairs and politics is sadly lacking. He manages to establish his identity after being recognized by both his daughter and Peter Vanderdonk, the most ancient inhabitant of the village. Still incredulous of Rip's explanation for his twenty-year absence, the villagers allow Rip to return home with his daughter and live in peace.

The term "Rip Van Winkle" has come to mean someone who is oblivious to social change. That is to say someone who is stuck in his or her own time and have not kept up with the times, intentionally or not. Washington's Rip Van Winkle may be the first popular example of a character that is "frozen in time" and who's reawakening is used to contrast two time periods. The story telling device is used throughout the genre of time travel as a means of transporting a character to a different time period. The movie "Austin Powers International Man of Mystery" and the television series "Futurama" both employ cryogenic freezing to bring their characters into the future. In the case of Rip Van Winkle the two time periods Irving Washington is contrasting is the twenty years overlapping the American Revolution. Rip Van Winkle goes to sleep in a period when the colonies are ruled by England and awakes in a period of American Independence. As Rip enters the village he notices a number of differences, among them the tavern where he spent much of his time had greatly changed. "He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON." In addition to contrasting the political shifts over twenty years, the story also alludes to the economic shift from a more rural based economy to an increasingly urban one in Rip's view. While Rip's view of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains is a highly romanticized one, his shock at the change in the pace and style of life upon returning to the village is genuine as evident in the quotes below.

"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."

"The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity"

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