Rip Van Winkle

Diedrich Knickerbocker Character Analysis

Knickerbocker is the fictional historian who narrates the story of Rip Van Winkle. We learn that Knickerbocker has died shortly after composing this history. Formerly an “old gentleman of New York,” Knickerbocker fostered a keen interest in the history of the Dutch settlers of New York, and preferred to do research by obtaining first person accounts as opposed to turning to books. He had the capability and intelligence to concern himself with “weightier labours” but nevertheless focused on enjoyed his hobby thoroughly until his death, and is generally well remembered by common people in his community, if not by critics.

Diedrich Knickerbocker Quotes in Rip Van Winkle

The Rip Van Winkle quotes below are all either spoken by Diedrich Knickerbocker or refer to Diedrich Knickerbocker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tyranny vs. Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Rip Van Winkle published in 1999.
“Rip Van Winkle” Quotes

The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work, and now that he is dead and gone it cannot do much harm to his memory to say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby in his own way.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely established; and it is how admitted into all historical collections as a book of unquestionable authority.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar’s lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble…in a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, it was impossible.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Rip Van Winkle, Jr.
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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His wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Dame Van Winkle
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, a dapper, learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Derrick Van Bummel
Related Symbols: The Inn
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

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On nearer approach, he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion—a cloth jerkin strapped around the waist—several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Hendrick Hudson / the crew of the Half Moon
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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As he approached the village, he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the little village inn—but it too was gone. A large rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken, and mended with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree which used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes…he recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George…but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was stuck in the hand instead of a scepter, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Jonathan Doolittle
Related Symbols: The Union Hotel
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk, who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact, handed down from his ancestor the historian, that the Catskill Mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. That it was affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the river and country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Hendrick Hudson / the crew of the Half Moon, Peter Vanderdonk
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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Rip now resumed his old walks and habits…[he] was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle of the old times “before the war.”

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Dr. Doolittle’s hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood but knew it by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head, and this was one point on which he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Jonathan Doolittle
Related Symbols: The Union Hotel
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Diedrich Knickerbocker Character Timeline in Rip Van Winkle

The timeline below shows where the character Diedrich Knickerbocker appears in Rip Van Winkle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“Rip Van Winkle”
Tyranny vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Truth, History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Labor vs. Productivity Theme Icon
...person narrator, who tells us that the following tale was written by the late historian Diedrich Knickerbocker . Knickerbocker was keenly interested in a province in New York at the base of... (full context)