In what ways is "Rip Van Winkle" a classic story of wish fulfillment? 

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a classic story of wish-fulfillment as Rip's life is transformed for the better without any effort on his part. His twenty-year magic sleep has, overall, a most agreeable effect: he returns to find that he is now rid of the main burden of his life, his wife. The nation has gained independence in that time, and his former sleepy little village is now a more bustling, active place; but the most important thing from his point of view is that Dame Van Winkle is no longer around to harass him. 

Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was-petticoat government. Happily that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony...

Married life for Rip, then, was a sore trial, but now he has been freed from the 'despotism,' or tyranny of his wife. The great political change matters very little to him in comparison. He slots back into the life of the village quite quickly and is honoured as a relic of a bygone age. Also, as he is now old, he is no longer expected to do any work. This is just the kind of life he enjoys, idling and gossiping. He also has his daughter to look after him. He has no more troubles; he is content. 

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rip has never wanted to work too hard on making a success of his life. He is a happy-go-lucky sort of person. We learn that,

The great error in Rip’s composition was a strong dislike of all kinds of profitable labor.

He likes to fish, wander around the woods with his rifle on his shoulder, play with the neighborhood children, and help other people with their tasks. However, he does not have any ambition for himself or his own farm, and he does not want to take responsibility for raising his own children.

He is an emblem of the sleepy, complacent British citizen in the New World. He likes to hang out on the bench in front of the local inn, talking to others under a portrait of King George III. He does everything he can to escape his scolding wife, who is upset at how little he does for her or his family.

When Rip falls asleep for 20 years, we can understand this device as wish fulfillment. It is a perfect way to escape all his adult responsibilities. When he wakes up, his wife has recently died "in a fit of passion" at a pedlar. His children are grown, so he also does not have to worry about them anymore. He can be as happy-go-lucky as he pleases, and he has far fewer responsibilities to plague him.

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Rip Van Winkle

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