How did "Rip Van Winkle" reflect the current situation in society and politics?

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When Rip Van Winkle awakens from his 20 years of sleep, the world around him is remarkably changed. In that short time, the country went through the American Revolution and declared its independence from England, a move that completely shifted the world around him. Rip was thrust into a world...

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When Rip Van Winkle awakens from his 20 years of sleep, the world around him is remarkably changed. In that short time, the country went through the American Revolution and declared its independence from England, a move that completely shifted the world around him. Rip was thrust into a world in which the basic fabric of the government was wildly different from the world in which he fell asleep.

It may seem hard to imagine from the 21st century, but the government the founding fathers designed didn't work perfectly, even from the start. Citizens had to adapt to their new normal and that led to rioting, picketing, and general dissonance. Rip awakens right after the presidential election and is asked for whom he voted. Voting was a new practice for all citizens, but completely foreign to Rip. He didn't know how to answer their odd questions, and instead responded:

Alas! gentlemen [...] I am a poor, quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!

Rip's situation reflects our own in several key ways. First, Rip is only gone for 20 years, and yet the most basic aspects of his community have changed. We often think of our world as moving quickly because of technological advances that thrust us forward, but the reality is that a big change can happen quickly in any circumstance. In today's America, the government is run in a fundamentally different way than it was only a few years ago. By removing the norms we've come to expect in politics, the current White House has fundamentally changed the government in a short amount of time.

Secondly, the way in which the citizens of Rip's America react to their changed world is through anger and demonstration—a trend that is seen more and more often in our America. Whether it's groups in support or opposition of the current leadership, rioting and protests have become a very normal way to express free speech.

Ultimately, the many changes that were brought about as a result of the American Revolution, including the drafting of the constitution, led directly to the new world Rip found and indirectly to the one in which we find ourselves today.

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Wandering away from his nagging wife, Rip Van Winkle falls under a spell and sleeps for 20-odd years. As a result, when he returns to his village in the Catskills, he has no idea that the American Revolution has taken place. By showing how completely out of touch Rip is with the current political situation, the story highlights the changes in politics and society that have occurred in a relatively short time. Rip gets himself into trouble for professing loyalty to King George III, who was, in fact, his monarch when he fell asleep. He has to get used to the idea that it's George Washington's picture, rather than the king's, hanging in public places. Further, the election day debates in the story reflect American citizens' groping for self-definition as they tried to determine what being a Republic (still a radical idea at the time, when most countries were monarchies) meant and what kind of country they were supposed to become. The near rioting on election day mirrored behavior that was not uncommon in early 19th century America, reflecting the social and political reality of a new country's growing pains.  

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