The story of "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving is about social change. In the beginning of the story, Rip and the town in which he lives are emblems of peace and stability. Rip's life is depicted as following regular patterns in a familiar landscape. When he falls asleep for a period of twenty years he wakes up to a different world.
Rip went to sleep just before the American Revolution and woke up afterwards. In the interim, a new nation was born and his sleepy Dutch village has become a thriving town in the new and dynamic United States. Many of the old familiar buildings have been replaced, and Rip's daughter is now a mother herself and Rip's wife (to his great relief) is dead. Despite the changes, the constant is that the town still has a sense of community and a respect for old legends, which provide an anchor of stability despite the sociopolitical upheavals. Even Rip, in his new life, remains much the same good-natured and fundamentally lazy person.