What is different when Rip Van Winkle wakes up that was not there before he fell asleep?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After Rip Van Winkle 's strange ordeal with the men playing nine-pins on the mountain, he falls into a deep, drunken slumber. Upon waking, he is concerned that he may have slept on the mountain all night, not yet guessing at the true nature of his circumstance. He finds that...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

After Rip Van Winkle's strange ordeal with the men playing nine-pins on the mountain, he falls into a deep, drunken slumber. Upon waking, he is concerned that he may have slept on the mountain all night, not yet guessing at the true nature of his circumstance. He finds that his beloved dog, Wolf, is no longer there, but Rip assumes that he must have chased a small animal. Furthermore, Rip finds that in place of his gun is just an "old firelock" that is so rusted and old that it cannot possibly be his. He writes this off as a trick of the men who gave him liquor the night prior.

However, when Rip attempts to return to the "amphitheater" hollow where he originally found the strange men, he finds that the natural landscape has changed, and the amphitheater is nowhere to be found. When Rip returns to town, he finds the most striking absence of all: The influence of the British Empire is nowhere to be found. When asked who he voted for, Rip, having never participated in this democratic process in his life, is almost attacked by the townspeople, being perceived as a traitor to America. It is only at this point that Rip begins to realize that he has been asleep for years and that a revolutionary war has taken place.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the many changes that Rip Van Winkle notices on waking up relates to his favorite inn. Before Rip fell asleep, the inn was a place of peace and repose, a haven of calm where Rip, and many of the other men of the town, would pass their days in civilized conversation and gentle amusement.

But now, the inn has been transformed into the Union Hotel, and the whole atmosphere of the place has changed. Now, people engage in passionate and often violent debate over politics. As Rip soon discovers, to his horror, they're also intensely suspicious of anyone who appears out of place, as Rip does. Rip's disheveled appearance and nervous demeanor make him stick out like a sore thumb, leading some of the patrons of the hotel to wonder if he's some kind of traitor hellbent on disrupting the election.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Rip Van Winkle" tells the story of a man who retreats up into the Catskill Mountains and falls asleep for twenty years. He wakes up to discover that the world has undergone a profound shift in those twenty years, for he has slept through the entire history of the American Revolution, with the Thirteen Colonies transitioning into the United States.

These transformations are extensive and dramatic. What had once been a sleepy village has become larger and more tumultuous (and much more enthusiastic and impassioned about politics—a noteworthy feature, given just how much political context Rip has slept through). Familiar faces have been replaced by a multitude of strangers dressed in unfamiliar fashions. His house appears abandoned. Even the old inn has changed, having been replaced with "the Union Hotel."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The key before and after difference in the story is that Rip goes to sleep a citizen of Great Britain and wakes up a citizen of the United States. In the twenty years that Rip has been snoozing, the former colonists declared their independence, fought a revolution, and established their own nation. Showing the difference between the two times is the whole point of the story.

The town before the revolution, the place Rip knows so well before he falls asleep, is a drowsy, quiet, apathetic place. The men gather in front of the inn under the portrait of King George III and talk about news that is three months old. They have no sense of themselves as participants in the life of the nation. They have no sense of agency.

In contrast, Rip comes back into a town invigorated and energized by being part of a democratic republic. People have a voice: they have representation. They can vote and elect their own officials! Apathetic, happy-go-lucky, unfocused people such as Rip have no place in this active and enthusiastic new world where independence has changed everything for the better. In writing this story, Irving is participating in myth-building about a new nation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are many differences in Rip Van Winkle's small town after he awakens from his 20 year nap! Since Rip falls asleep right before the Revolutionary War and wakes up in the years after, so much has changed!

Rip himself is different. He finds his joints and muscles to be extremely sore and he's starving! He notices that his own beard is nearly a foot long, his weapon has rusted, and his dog is gone.

As he walks into town he notices the clothing of the townspeople is strange and is disappointed that he does not recognize anyone. Kids and dogs used to befriend him but now children mock him and the dogs bark. He cannot locate his friends or his wife, and the local landmarks like the inn and giant tree have been replaced. Where there once was a tree there is now a giant flagpole bearing a red, white and blue flag he does not recognize. Most astonishingly he notices that a picture of George Washington now hangs where there used to be a framed image of King George!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team