An Analysis of Developing American Literature “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving and “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” by James Fennimore Cooper demonstrate several distinct American characteristics. Irving focuses on New York’s Hudson River while discussing the settings of “Rip Van Winkle. New York is probably the most identifiable state in the U. S. and is recognized by its Statue of Liberty welcoming foreigners into its prideful country. While Irving discusses nature’s beauty in similar ways in the U. S. by giving a page description on a simple frozen lake in Somerville.
In “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” the three main American characteristics in these short stories are: power of nature, value of the common man, and growing nationalism. Nature can be a powerful concept. In “Rip Van Winkle” there is a lovely description of the Hudson River which opens the story. “Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river swelling up to a noble height and lording it over the surrounding country.
In “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” there is a similar description. “Large flocks of wild geese were seen passing over the country, which hovered, for a time, around the hidden sheet of water, apparently searching for a resting-place; and then, on finding themselves excluded by the chill covering, would soar away to the north, filling the air with discordant screams, as if venting their complaints a the tardy operations of Nature. ” Nature is very important to Washington Irving and James Cooper.
Along with nature, also present is the value of the common man. Values had certainly changed when Rip awoke from his century nap. In a state of confusion, he yells, “Alas gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King- God bless him! ” People around Rip thought what he was acting treasonous. Values of America had changed and now included the concept of voting.
Along with American values, came values of nature represented in “The Slaughter f the Pigeons”. “It‘s better for you, maybe, Billy Kirby,” replied the indignant old hunter, “and all them that don’t know how to put a ball down a rifle-barrel, or how to bring it up again with a true aim; but it’s wicked to be shooting into flocks in this wasty manner…” We must not waste what we are given in this world, and we must embrace change as well. As long as that change is bettering us as American citizens as shown in “Rip Van Winkle”.
There is also a sense of growing nationalism embodied in both stories. In Irving’s short story there is a sign hung in honor of General Washington representing the good that he‘s done for the country. “The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff; a sword was held in the hand instead of a scepter; the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was printed in large characters. ” Nationalism by definition is having pride in one’s country.
Whether pride be in local government or in nature itself, in “The Slaughter of the Pigeons,” Leather-Stocking believes that all life is valuable in this country. “Put an end, Judge, to your clearings. Ain‘t the woods His work as well as the pigeons? Use, but don‘t waste. Wasn‘t the woods made for the beasts and birds to harbor in? …” In “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” the three main American characteristics in these short stories are: power of nature, value of the common man, and growing nationalism.
They are each represented in distinct ways but clearly show the importance of America and its impact on the Western Civilization that we know today. Whether stressing the importance of government change for the better in “Rip Van Winkle” or holding true to nature in “The Slaughter of the Pigeons” we all hold a part in the shaping American society. The real task is holding the past with one hand while reaching for the future with the other and never letting one side pull too hard.