Tart Tempers and Sharp Tongues


The beginning of "Rip Van Winkle" focuses quite a bit on developing the characters of Rip and Dame Van Winkle.  A quote that stood out to me was "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 edged tool that grows keener with constant use."

Rip's marriage was obviously a burden to him.  From his perspective, his wife's constant nagging made his life almost unbearable.  But I found it interesting that if we look beyond this particular story, we can find what I believe is a very true statement in Irving's words. "A tart temper never mellows with age."  In a very broad sense, isn't this pretty accurate?  I don't think that I know of anyone who, being a poor-tempered person in young to middle adulthood, has become more pleasant as the years go on.  Even in movies we often see sour old characters who we find out were also sour young people! 

The same goes for "a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use."  Someone who is constantly nagging or criticizing tends to end up being pretty good at knowing exactly what to say to bring others down.  In a twisted way, this shows that practice really does make perfect.

So even though Rip may have been a very lazy man in his own household, Irving's desciption of Dame Van Winkle's temperment seems to be quite plausible as well.


I like how you took to specific ideas from the story and applied them to real life. There are so many important messages and ideas within stories that people pass by without noticing.

I think some people mellow with age, as you get older there are so many changes in your life and some have life altering effects on us that cause us to go from being maybe cynical to having a broader out look on our feelings or just the opposite. If Rip's wife was the way she is in the story before they got married then he got what he deserved.

It is almost the stereotypical nagging wife here. Dame Van Winkle is such an extreme element here, and it is next to impossible not to side with Rip. To be so bitter so far along in life is tragic in this tale. The Dame shouldn't be so awful if she is used to Rip's behavior. He is obviously used to hers.

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This page contains a single entry by CassieEllson published on September 15, 2010 3:24 PM.

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