What is the point of Rip Van Winkle?  

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bcsaund eNotes educator| Certified Educator

   "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving is a short story that falls under the literary movement of American Romanticism. On the surface, the story is an entertaining (and mystical) tale of a nagging wife and a likeable, easy-going man. By looking a little closer, it becomes evident that Irving is making some historical/social commentary as well.

   The major historical event Rip sleeps through is the Revolutionary War. The two sides in the war are represented by the two main characters. Irving establishes Rip Van Winkle (America) as the character the reader sides with while Dame Van Winkle (Britain) is cast in a negative light. Before the Revolutionary War, Britain is controlling America; before Rip falls asleep, Dame is controlling him. After the war, America has earned its freedom; after he wakes up, Rip has his freedom because of his wife's death. The point of the story is to entertain through humor, but it is also a story of escaping domination to enjoy oneself.