Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories

rip van wrinkle by washington irving

what is supernatural about the story and what does the supernatural represent?


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The power of imagination to preclude reality is a very important theme in The Sketchbook. Crayon’s own imagination is very powerful and it is often the only entertainment he needs, as in “The Voyage.” It sometimes borders on or even becomes hallucinatory, as in “The Mutability of Literature,” when he believes he has a conversation with a book. There are less extreme but still powerful imaginative moments, too, as when he daydreams or allows himself to fantasize that Shakespeare’s fictional characters traveled where he travels.

Crayon makes explicit a few times that he is choosing to let his imagination overpower him, even though he knows it is not real, as with the above examples of believing Shakespeare’s fictional characters to have been real people, or when he allows himself to believe that, for example, the chair in Shakespeare’s house is Shakespeare’s original, even though he knows that the chair was sold years earlier.

This ability to choose whether to give into one’s imagination is closely linked to Crayon’s role as a storyteller. He declares his kind of storytelling to be that which aims only to give pleasure, not to educate, from which he concludes that he is not bound by the limitations of telling the truth. In this way, when he allows his imagination to almost transport him from his present situation, he is enacting his role of storyteller, even when his audience is only himself.