Which quality is so typically "American" about the character Rip Van Winkle?  

Expert Answers

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

Rip Van Winkle 's most quintessentially American quality is his desire for freedom. He doesn't want to be tied to the dull day-to-day labor required to make his farm a profitable venture. Instead, he has the spirit of a pioneer, preferring to wander the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains with...

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

Rip Van Winkle's most quintessentially American quality is his desire for freedom. He doesn't want to be tied to the dull day-to-day labor required to make his farm a profitable venture. Instead, he has the spirit of a pioneer, preferring to wander the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains with his gun or his fishing rod, rustling up some game or fish. He very much does not like to be henpecked by his wife, who is understandably distressed at how little responsibility he takes for their farm and children. But by leaving her at home while he whiles away his time in the forest or sits in front of the local inn discussing month-old news, Rip asserts his independence.

This roving spirit leads Rip into the biggest adventure of his life, when he wanders too far and stumbles across a mysterious and supernatural group of ancient Dutch people, drinks their enchanted beer, and falls asleep for twenty years. When he awakens, he finds he is a relic, a kind of apathetic American who has been replaced since the Revolutionary War with a more dynamic and vigorous group of young men heavily invested in participating in the new republic.

Nevertheless, Rip's type—the man who leaves his wife and kids behind to seek freedom, even if, in Rip's case, he never wanders too far—is still with us as an American archetype.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on