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It is suggested in the text that Rip's "laziness" is less a testament to his character and more a testament to his marital strife. But critical opinion points out that:
it is not difficult to peer behind the curtain of irony in the narrator’s voice and see things in another light. The fact is, although she has become an incurable nag, Dame Van Winkle has reason to be angry. If Rip is always willing to ‘‘assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil,’’ including ‘‘building stone-fences,’’ why are his own fences ‘‘continually falling to pieces?’’ (eNotes Study Guide/Themes).
Though paragraphs five and six outline the evidence of his family and home neglect, his "idleness" or "carelessness" is only referred to as such by his wife. It is true that his own house and farm are mostly in shambles, but it is not true that Rip does nothing all day as "laziness" might suggest. He spends most days doing things for other people outside his family. He is willing to "assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil." He plays with all of the children in the village, except his own. He fishes and hunts with regularity and unending patience. Where his "laziness" is apparent is in his neglect of anything "profitable" that will benefit his family, as the narrator ironically makes clear.
One option is to ignore the narrator's irony and the textual evidence supporting Rip as lazy in tasks that are "profitable" because of a "resistance to productive labor" (eNotes/Characters), and examine the theme of "laziness" from a cultural perspective. You might relate Rip's laziness to cultural themes of marital discontent and traditional roles of men and women at that time. Rip is a disappointment to his wife, and you might ask how much are the expectations he fails to meet tied to cultural standards.
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