How does the village change during Rip's 20-year sleep in "Rip Van Winkle"?

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At the start of Irving's story, Rip Van Winkle is an easygoing fellow who likes to help people but is a failure at doing anything for himself. He enjoys going to his small tavern and telling stories. He lives in a small village in the Catskills where he is on good terms with his fellow townsfolk, including the dogs. He lives with his nagging wife and poor children. To escape his wife, Rip likes squirrel hunting, which he often does with his dog, Wolf.

Rip's idyllic lazy world ends when he is lured further into the Catskill Mountains by some supernatural men who offer him their hospitality and alcohol. Rip becomes drunk and falls asleep. When Rip wakes up, he returns to a village that he does not recognize, because he has slept for twenty years. The village is now larger, and everyone is dressed in different clothes. The children make fun of his long beard, and no dogs remember him. Rip is confused by the appearance of the new American flag. His tavern has changed its name to the Union Inn. Rip is surprised to see George II's picture replaced by that of George Washington. Rip is also surprised by all of the talk of elections, and he is often asked whether he is a Federalist or a Democrat—two political parties that did not exist before the American Revolution.

Rip van Winkle missed one of the key points in American history. Moreover, Rip is saddened to learn that all of his friends have either died or left town as a result of the war. His dog and his wife passed away as well. Rip is ultimately taken in by his daughter's family and returns to playing with the local children and doing little in the way of work. Rip learns that his son is also given to idleness. The story demonstrates that American culture changed a great deal in the twenty years that Rip Van Winkle was away from town, but that one's character traits change little.

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In 1819, American author Washington Irving wrote the short story “Rip Van Winkle,” which tells the tale of a villager in colonial America who falls asleep for twenty years and misses the American Revolution.

Because of Rip's slumber, the story takes place both before and after the American Revolution in a town in the Catskills.

After waking and returning from the mountains, Rip finds that there are many distinct changes to his town. These local changes serve to illustrate the broader changes in American culture that occurred following the American Revolution.

The first thing he notices is the different garb worn by the villagers and the fact that the village has grown in size. This note illustrates the rapid growth which followed the revolution, as well as the idea that a distinct American culture, represented by new fashion styles, was born.

The protagonist arrives back shortly following an election and the population is remarkably politically active, so much so that they ask him how he voted. This speaks to the importance of elections and the pride in voting early Americans had.

Finally, the portrait of King George at his favorite bar has been replaced by a portrait of George Washington, which further illustrates the young nation's separation from Britain.

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"Rip Van Winkle" is about the radical transformations that followed the American Revolutionary War, and the region's transition from colony to independent country. This large-scale transformation is paralleled by the transformations within the Rip's village, which has undergone dramatic changes since Rip fell asleep.

When Rip returns from the mountains, he finds that the village is much larger than he remembers, filled with unfamiliar people. Similarly, fashions have changed, as he observes people in new and unfamiliar styles of dress.

When he comes to the old village inn, now called "the Union Hotel," he finds further changes (symbolically illustrated by the change in portrait from King George to George Washington). Whereas the inn used to be a place of placidity, now it is crowded and tempestuous, full of citizens impassioned about politics and elections. These transformations reflect the transformations within the country itself. Rip missed this history, however, having slept through the Revolution.

Yet, for all this, it is important to recognize that there are some continuities that remain. We see this clearly illustrated in Rip Van Winkle's son, who has inherited his father's laziness. We see this also in the example of Rip Van Winkle himself, who resumes much of his previous habits and lifestyle in these post-Revolutionary years. In these examples, we find that, for all of the Revolution's social and political transformations, some aspects of life have remained constant across time.

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This is an intelligent question to ask about this intriguing short story that seems to offer some kind of reflection on the Americna Revolution and the independence from Britain that was achieved. Obviously, this is one of the central differences, and the fact that Rip Van Winkle went for his sleep before the Revolution and then woke up afterwards suggests that Washington Irving is trying to say something about it.

As Rip draws near towards his village he is started to see that he doesn't know any of the people that he meets and that they are dressed in a strange manner to his eyes. Superficially, the village itself has grown larger:

The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors--strange faces at the windows--everything was strange.

His own house has gone to "decay" and the inn has changed as well, most importantly now bearing a picture of George Washington instead of King George and having changed its name. The people in the inn seem to have changed as well, as Rip Van Winkle notes in their conversation:

The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity.

Rip later finds out that some of his friends went off either fight in the war and some serve now in the new government. So, plenty of changes in the village have occurred. The question you need to ask is what Irving is suggesting through these changes.

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