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Washington Irving and Merman Melville - Essay Example

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Revolution is understood as a glorious moment in Western history, but Irving Washington through Rip Van Winkle suggests that it involved difficult social and psychological upheavals for those who experienced it. Irving finds life in the post-Revolutionary village troubling and…
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Washington Irving and Merman Melville
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Revolution is understood as a glorious moment in Western history, but Irving Washington through Rip Van Winkle suggests that it involved difficult social and psychological upheavals for those who experienced it. Irving finds life in the post-Revolutionary village troubling and contentious.  His vision represents a constraint upon mass political action. The re-awakening of Rip is used to contrast two time periods – a year before the American Revolution when he goes to sleep and twenty years after the Revolution began when he wakes up and finds a different society altogether. His little village had been a ‘peaceful spot’ but now things were different, ‘the very character of people seemed changed’.
While Irving deals with the society and its effects of the American Revolution, Herman Melville in Bartleby the Scrivener portrays the onset of the socialist Revolution, which would overthrow the Capitalist economic model. The character Bartleby is the perfect office drone representing the economic work model, which serves to degrade the American working classes. Melville tries to emphasize that while initially Bartleby (the system or the community) was productive, subsequently he begins to reject the system of which he is a key part. His continuous rejection becomes a threat to both the authority structure and the ideology that surrounds it. Melville through Bartleby never reveals his rejection of capitalism but he exhibits socialism through his actions. Melville makes the reader sense the waves of change by portraying Bartleby as being ahead of time.
Irving implies that the term Rip Van Winkle came to mean someone who is oblivious to change. Rip carried on with his life the way he desired unconcerned about his responsibilities and the sarcasm of Dame Van Winkle. Irving has subsequently not been able to stick to this ideal when he portrays the upheavals of Revolution brought about identity crisis in the society. It was forced upon the individuals when Rip declares himself a subject of George III under pressure. Bartleby, too had to succumb to the pressures of the capitalist society but preferred to die.
The Capitalist society has to die paving way for the socialist system but Melville has not been able to portray this. While Bartleby knows, there is better world beyond this, but lack of education and ideas hold him back from attaining it. Bartleby (Melville) is unable to articulate what that world is and is destroyed before he can find the rationale.
By re-awakening, Irving implies not merely transporting from one era to another but one state of consciousness to another – from ignorance to knowledge. When one awakens to the truth, one realizes that things are not what they had thought. They awaken to the truth and realize that things have to change and one has to move along with the changing times. The enlightenment reveals through Rip that the society is far from democratic. Bartleby refuses to carry on once he attains the enlightenment. Both the authors have reasons which hold them back from achieving their ideals. Read More
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