What is the setting of this story? What feature of the place seems to be the most memorable? What details suggest when the story takes place?  

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of the story is New York near the Catskill Mountains.  The beginning and end of the story take place in a village "at the foot of these fairy mountains" ("Rip Van Winkle").  It is a place where one can see

"light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province."

The Catskill Mountains are a memorable feature in the story.  They are described as being "west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country."  The narrator describes the vibrant colors of nature in the Catskills.  The simplicity of the village is also memorable.  Both the village and the mountains are prominent places in the story.

When the story begins, it takes place in a time "while the country was yet a province of Great Britain."  Rip Van Winkle sleeps for twenty years.  When he wakes up, the Revolutionary War has already occurred and the United States has been formed.  He sees a new flag flying in the village instead of the British one.  He spots a familiar sign, but notices that

"the ruby face of King George, under which [Rip] had smoked so many a peaceful pipe... was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON."

A man in the village speaks about the "rights of citizens—elections—members of congress—liberty—Bunker’s Hill—heroes of seventy-six—and other words, which [are] a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle."  He does not know what the man is talking about.  He has no idea that his village is no longer located within a British colony.

Read the study guide:
Rip Van Winkle

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