Is Rip Van Winkle committed to a work ethic? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is difficult to describe Rip as being devoted to a work ethic. While he is a kindly man, he is also very lazy, as the narrator makes clear:

Rip Van Winkle...was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got by the least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.

Dame Van Winkle, his wife, who is not portrayed sympathetically in the book, regards him as a lazy, good-for-nothing slacker. While he is willing to help other people, he does not care for his own farm and does not help take care of their children. His fences are falling down, his cows are perpetually getting into his cabbages, and his children are "as ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody."

Rip's purpose in life seems to be to avoid his wife, sitting and conversing with other local men at the local inn and going hunting and fishing. Rip, in short, is a likeable character, but not by any means an industrious one. One of the key ambiguities in the story is whether one finds Rip sympathetic in his dealings with his wife, or whether one views his wife's incessant hectoring as justified.