After Rip van Winkle's return from the Catskill Mountains and his twenty-year sleep, he finds his life much altered: His termagant wife, Dame van Winkle, has died as has the former life he knew as a subject of King George III of England. With the end of his marriage and the end of Colonial America, van Winkle is relieved about the first situation--
Whenever her name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an expression of resination to his fate or joy at his deliverance--
but dismayed at the second; for, he feels a nostalgia for the pre-Revolutionary times, a period of what van Winkle feels represents stability against vehement "haranguing" of the "bilious-looking" citizens of the new United States. So, while van Winkle is relieved that the voice of duty and responsibility represented by his wife is gone, he knows also that other facets of his life, the days of pre-Revolutionary War, are gone as well. This is what the death of his wife and the war have in common--they are both in the past. And, so Rip retreats to telling his story at Mr. Doolittle's Hotel, formerly the quiet little Dutch inn.