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Benjamin Franklin's life was one in which actions were based upon reason and forward direction as he moved from being the son of a candle and soap maker, whereas Rip Van Winkle's life seems more governed by emotion that directs itself back to his original starting point.
In Washington Irving's tale, Rip van Winkle is a "ne'er do well" who plays with the children and eschews work of any kind. On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin became apprenticed to his brother James as a printer, then became a printer himself, and later a scientist and inventor and statesman. He seized opportunities and rose from "rags to riches" whereas Rip returns in rags to the village after sleeping away twenty years of his life. In contrast to Franklin, who learned from his errata and became successful and wealthy, Van Winkle lacks self-responsibility, running from Dame van Winkle, the voice of duty:
In fact he declared it was of no use to work on his farm....His fences were continually falling to pieces, his cow would either go astray or get among the cabbages...his patrimonial estate had dwindled away under his management...
Rip has learned little from his life, seeking merely to return to the idyllic peace of his indolence after his twenty year sleep. When he returns to his village, for instance, he searches for his old friends and is alarmed at the cacophony of arguing voices from the Revolutionary movement of the New America. Retreating from them, Rip van Winkle finds satisfaction in his nostalgia of pre-revolutionary times--
Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his former cronies....Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity, he took his place once more on the bench at the inn door...--
Benjamin Franklin, on the other hand, supported the revolutionary movement and was extremely influential in forming the new government of the United States of America. A man of amazing ambition and stamina, Franklin was the only one of the original Founding Fathers to have signed all three of the Revolutionary documents, and was a great statesman his entire life of eighty-some years.
Rip Van Winkle was based on a German folk tale. He makes a success of failure, which is not what Franklin would agree with. Franklin is known for quotes such as "A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned." He is the ultimate in working hard for every penny and saving. Yet, Winkle manages to do well without doing anything. . . He is the "anti-hero" in this sense.
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