What does the American Dream consist of for Rip Van Winkle in Irving's "Rip Van Winkle"?
Rip himself has an old-fashioned concept of the American dream, one that predates the founding of the United States. His personal dream is of freedom from responsibility, what would later be celebrated by Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn as the freedom to wander, unshackled by the constraints of civilization, in a liminal, natural space. Rip is kind and helpful, but he has no ambition to build his own farm, increase his income, or take care of his own family. He enjoys wandering around in the woods of the Catskills with his gun on his shoulder, fishing all day, or sitting under the portrait of King George III at the inn—whiling away an afternoon with others in a desultory way.
Rip, in a sense, achieves his dream when he sleeps for twenty years. When he wakes up, the world has changed. The new nation has energized the townspeople, who are now citizens of their own republic, able to vote in elections and steer their own destinies. This is a different kind of dream, one of which Irving...
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