Excerpt from “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener by constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, that held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of his majesty George the Third. Here they used to sit in the shade, of a long lazy summer’s day, talk listlessly over village gossip, or tell endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman’s money to have heard the profound discussions that sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands, from some passing traveler. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.
How does this early description of the setting affect the text?
It demonstrates the villagers’ loyalty to the king of England, which explains why the outcome of the revolution is hard for them to accept.
It shows that, like Rip, many of the men in the village prefer each other’s company over the company of their families.
It explains that outside events have little impact on the villagers, which emphasizes how much the village changes over twenty years.
It sets the stage for conflict later in the story when Rip stands up to his wife for embarrassing him by intruding on a space reserved only for men.
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