On "Rip Van Winkle": Alcohol and Alcoholism

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For most of the story, Van Winkle is never in contact with alcohol, in fact, the only time we really see him drinking is during that strange night in the mountains. But before we get to that, we should note that Van Winkle, like a drunk, does leave an unproductive lifestyle: he lays around, avoids real work, and lets his house and family suffer. So on that fateful night, when Van Winkle climbs the mountain and meets the strange bowling men, he gets hammered. So hammered, he passes out. For 20 years. That's a coma. Drinking the alcohol literally robs him of 20 years of his life. When he returns to town, his wife is gone, his house is run down, his dog is no longer domestic... Alcohol has ruin his body, home, and relationships. Although this is probably not the main point or theme of "Rip Van Winkle," this is just one more theme.

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After 20 years, is it likely that the dog he sees really is the same one? Okay, I admit I felt like a Trekkie asking an obscure technical question about warp drive technology, but it would be remarkable that a dog lived that long. Is there any evidence in the story for magic that extends a dog's life? If it is the same dog, wouldn't it recognze him? This might be the offspring of his dog, which prepares us for seeing Rip's own children.

While it's true the only references to alcohol are magical, you're right, Rip's irresponsible behavior does suggest what we would call an addiction. Does Dame Van Winkle list drunkenness among Rip's many faults? She ought to know, if he does have that problem.

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This page contains a single entry by PatrickSchober published on September 4, 2010 12:00 PM.

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