In Washington Irving's descriptions, there are evident certain elements of Romanticism:
The awe for the beauty of nature
In his descriptions of the resplendent Catskills Mountains, Irving elevates them and the other elements of nature with personification:
[van Winkle] threw himself...on a green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that cowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening...he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple coud, or the sail of a lagging bark here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
The Dream, or the inner world of the individual
The use of the visionary, fantastic, or drug-induced imagery characteristic of Romanticism introduces Rip van Winkle's dream. He is greeted by a
a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion, a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist, several pair of breeches...He bore on his shoulder a stout keg that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach.
Van Winkle drinks from this keg and then in his inebriated state, he sees "a company of odd-looking personages playing at ninepins" whose faces are odd. The group remindes Rip of the characters in old Flemish paintings. Oddly, the little people are amusing themselves, but they maintained serious faces and a "mysterious" silence. As he becomes drugged by the contents of the flagon, Rip van Winkle falls asleep for twenty years. When he awakens, Rip's inner world does not match what he sees. No traces of the amphitheater are there or the little men. And as he approaches the village he is met by strangers.
A nostalgia for the past
After Rip van Winkle enter the village, he finds it much altered. The old inn is replaced by the Union Hotel with its tall naked pole from which a strange flag flies. The usual picture of King George was replaced by another visage, that of General Washington.
There was as usual a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility.
Disturbed by all the changes, Rip van Winkle yearns for the old desultory colonial days where he and Van Bummel the schoolmaster sat around and echanged stories.