Having spent several years touring Europe, Washington Irving held a great fondness for the cultures of the Old World. In his story, "Rip van Winkle," this love of the European culture, especially the Dutch settlers in New York, becomes evident.
The story begins with a description of the magnificent Katskill Mountains and the surrounding area. Despite his termagant wife's scoldings that he should be farming, Rip enjoys a leisurely life at the inn where "a rubicund portrait of his majesty George the Third" hangs. But, even here Dame van Winkle assaults him with her Puritan scoldings; therefore, Rip takes to the higher parts of the mountains with his gun and dog Wolf.where he can lose himself in "the blue highlands." After a leisurely day, Rip begins his descent, but is accosted strange little Dutchman who enlists his help in carrying a large keg. As he helps this little man, he sees even more in the habiliments of the Old Dutch. Enlisted to pour from the keg into the flagons of the company, Rip sneaks drinks for himself until he falls into a deep sleep.
It is twenty years later that Rip awakens; without realizing how long he has slept, he imagines that his rifle has been stolen and replaced with a rusty one. Looking futilely for his dog, Rip decides that he must return home alone. Upon his arrival, he finds the house "empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned." Desolate, Rip hurries to the village inn where nothing is as it has been. The portrait of King George III is gone and replaced with one named "General Washington." The nature of the people has also altered,
There was a busy, bustling diputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility....In place of [van Bummel the schoolmaster] a lean bilious-looking fellow with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about right of citizens--elections--member of Congress--liberty--...heroes of Seventy-six--and other words whench were a perfect Babylonsih jargon to the bewildered van Winkle.
Rip himself, with his long beard and rustic appearance becomes a curiosity to the women and children, who crowd around his to his "vacant stupidity." Nor does he understand what a man in a three-cornered hat accosts him, asking why he has come to the election with a gun. When Rip tells him he is a quiet man, a loyal subject to the King, the others shout, "A Tory! A Tory!" and the man in authority demands to know what intentions Rip has in being there.
In short, Rip's entire world has changed. His wife is dead from breaking a blood vessel "in a fit of passion" at a New England peddler, and his friends are gone, dead or in Congress of moved away. His children are grown, Rip van Winkle, junior, is as indolent as his father, while his daughter, Judith Gardenier, who has married an industrious farmer, takes her father into her home. After Peter Vanderdonk, descendant of the historian of the same name identifies Rip van Winkle, the townspeople no longer think he is insane, and Rip spends his days telling his story at Mr. Doolittle's Hotel, the former inn where he sat years ago.