Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving is a set in a small village with mountainous landscape by the banks of River Hudson. It depicts the simple life of the inhabitants under British rule. The main character is Rip Van Winkle, a good-natured Dutch man who is held in high esteem within the village. Irving juxtaposes Rip’s mannerisms with the revolutionary changes of the time, as Rip does not care for change. These mannerisms put him in trouble with his nagging wife signaling the conflict between America and England at the time as Irving notes “Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle (Moritz 1).” Thus, Rip’s wife also builds the revolution theme. Rip’s friends also help, as they are the distractions that keep Rip from being progressive. Rip flees his wife’s nagging and takes to the mountains where he sleeps for 20 years through the American Revolution. When he returns, his wife is already dead and there are just a few indications of change in the village. This implies that the villagers did not appreciate the sacrifice of those who engaged in war with the British during the revolution (Moritz 1).
Cooper uses the arguments of Judge temple and other characters to juxtapose between natural law and human law regarding conservation. Judge Temple is the conservationist who does not want the trees to be cut down because of their usefulness, which is an implication of natural law. He feels that trees are “jewels of the forest, these precious gifts of nature, these mines of comfort and wealth (MacDougall 1)” that should not be used as fuel. Billy Kirby, on the other hand feels that the purpose of the trees is to serve man rather than stand as ornaments, which is an indication of human law. Natty Bumppo feels that “If a body has a craving for pigeon flesh, why! It’s made the same as all other creatures, for man’s eating, but not to kill twenty and eat one (MacDougall 1).” This implies that although man has the freedom to use natural products as he wishes, there should be limits imposed by law to control this freedom. In my opinion, humanity owns natural products and thus each individual is free to use the natural resources as he wishes. However, in-discriminatory exploitation of these resources is disastrous as it may lead to depletion. Conservation and laws are thus necessary to ensure continuity.
MacDougall Hugh. “James Fenimore Cooper: Pioneer of the Environmental Movement.” James Fenimore Cooper Society. 2012. Web.
Moritz Oehl. The Theme of the American Revolution in Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. Munich: GRIN Publishing. 2002. Print.