They are represented through
a sexist point of view in which the men’s downfall are attributed to women not
being passive and supportive not matter what their husband may do.
However, in order to discuss
the way women are portrayed in Washington Irving’s writings it is necessary to
point out that we have in hands an unreliable narrator. Although it is possible
to know the thoughts of characters and to understand what they really think and
what motivates them in literature, with this narrator that is not possible and
we are left as if we were listening to someone telling a story just like in
real life. The story is narrated by a semi-omniscient narrator that judges and
takes conclusions about the characters. He analyzes their actions and explains them
with his opinion. What is frustrating since Washington Irving’s writings are
character-driven. Irving hands us an undependable
narrator that analysis his history, settings ad characters as we, the real-life
reader, analyze ours. We know neither the real thoughts nor the intentions of
these people. How can we judge a character’s development through the eyes of a
suspicious narrator? Yet that is what we
do in society, we listen to some facts and we attribute a character judgment
out of what we think that personality is rather than what it really is.
What we know about Rip Van Winkle
is that he is well regarded by his community, avoids any profitable work and likes
to do anybody’s business except his own.
What is strange is that all of his flaws are considered his wife’s fault
and according to the narrator, this flaws even make him three times more
blessed that other men.
According to the narrator there are
“good wives” and there are wives like Dame Van Winkle (bad), the adjectives he
calls her are always negative and they “force” her husband to escape to the
woods. But what is a good wife? In the book “Women’s role in Seventeenth-Century
America” by Merril D. Smith, she states: