What is the theme in Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle?

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The theme or underlying meaning of "Rip Van Winkle" is to highlight the contrasts between the apathetic old days of New York as an English colony with the vigorous new energy it has as part of a new republic.

Rip symbolizes the old days. He is happy-go-lucky, without ambition, and avoids rather then confronts his bullying, shrewish wife. Instead of working in a purposeful way, Rip is happier wandering in the woods with his rifle, fishing, or sitting around the inn under the picture of King George III, sleepily discussing current events that are already a month old.

After he falls asleep for twenty years, he returns to a changed village, now invigorated and fully alive....

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