“Rip Van Winkle,” Washington Irving, 1819 — Rip Van Winkle, a habitually idle man in search of refuge from his wife’s nagging, falls asleep after accepting a drink from a mysterious man. He sleeps twenty years and awakes to find his wife and friends dead and the Revolutionary War come and gone.
Comments: See H. Bruce Franklin’s commentary on this story and Irving in Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century. Franklin notes that this story is the “archetypal time-travel story” and is sometimes referred to as “the first American short story.”
Franklin continues: “‘Rip Van Winkle’ dramatizes the essence of time travel, the contradictions between chronological time and psychological time. It does this not only in the person of Rip himself, who sleeps through twenty years, but also in those spectral figures from the past, Hendrick Hudson and his crew from the Half-Moon, who reappear every twenty years. Rip experiences the dissociation of selves in time, the fragmentation of identities, which was to haunt nineteenth- and twentieth-century American fiction until the social disintegration reflected in that fiction made the term ‘identity crisis’ a cliche among the middle classes in the 1960’s:
‘I’m not myself–I’m somebody else–that’s me yonder–no–that’s somebody else got into my shoes–I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and every thing’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!'”
Author: Wikipedia: “Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century.”