Dame Van Winkle-An Epitome of Non-conformist Behavior
Dame Van Winkle is a dominant and practical-minded lady and her disposition and character does not match with the norms of the contemporary American society. She is an anti-thesis to the Romantic Rip Van Winkle who epitomizes the romantic traits of his age. There is no textual hint that Dame Van Winkle was hash by nature bit it was socio-economic compulsion that made her to castigate Rip time and again. She does not complement but even sometime challenges the contemporary social traditions and norms that require a complacent attitude and behavior on the part of woman.
It is the nature ad characteristics of Rip that compel Dame to be a cultural villain. Her villainy is not due to any inherent flaw in her nature or due to habitual formation or propensity in her character. It is due to the circumstances in which she is placed and in which she has to perform suitably. Economic well-being of her family is her ultimate objective. Rip does not pay attention to this aspect and indulge himself helping others. Although he is “simple good-natured “and “a kind neighbor” but he is not a good family head.
He is not pragmatic and does not think about the well-being of his family. He is a fellow who “take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble”. He uses to “starve on a penny than work for a pound”. Dame’s scolding is not a result of any pernicious nature or individual grudges. The story manifests that there are certain other male characters in the story that spend their time in useless activities and enjoy the blessing of indolence but their wives do not scold them. Their attitude is in conformity with the social norms.
The author only portrays Dame with the colors of cruelty because she does not conform to the so-called model of contemporary women. This model requires women to act submissively and remain obedient and subservient to their husbands. It further requires them not to complain or criticize the behavior of their husbands. Same is the case with Dame. Her husband, society and author want her to behave and act accordingly but she does not do so. Although her behavior is not appropriate to the social and cultural norms of the day but was most apt response according to the economic and domestic conditions of her family.
In spite of doing something practical regardless of her rebuke and reproach, he used to “frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village” and used to take refuge in idle activities. This further infuriates Dame and she further performs a non-conformist act by going into the stronghold of the men and scolds Rip’s companions as well. Although it is courageous act according to the social norms of today but it was considered a height of bad manners by that societies and that company. That’s the reason that contemporary society only blames her for all the misdeeds.
Irving provides certain hints about other facets of her characters. He portrays her as a neat and clean lady who always keeps her house tidy. There is no quarrel between her and her neighbors or any other woman of the village. All the above-mentioned arguments and supporting evidence manifest that Dame Van Winkle was not of a tyrannical nature but it was Rip’s failing as a husband and father that make her behave so. Furthermore, she is regarded cantankerous not due to real bad temper but due to non-conformity with the contemporary social norms. Work Cited Irving, Washington. Rip Van Winkle. New York: Philomel Books, 1999.