Discussion Topic

The central themes, main ideas, moral, and portrayal of the main character in Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle."

Summary:

The central themes in Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" include change, the passage of time, and the conflict between tradition and progress. The main idea revolves around Rip Van Winkle's long sleep and the changes he observes upon waking. The moral emphasizes the inevitability of change. Rip is portrayed as a passive, easygoing character who prefers relaxation over responsibility.

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What is the moral of "Rip Van Winkle" and what is its overall message?

Rip Van Winkle” is a short story written by Washington Irving. It was first published in 1819.

In this short story, the main protagonist, Rip Van Winkle, falls asleep during a walk in the mountains. This is before the American Revolution has taken place. However, Rip Van Winkle doesn’t wake up until after American independence has been achieved, which is very much to the reader’s and his own surprise. The overall message of the story is that life moves on, regardless of what happens to the individual. Everybody is replaceable, no one is so important that they are completely irreplaceable.

Rip Van Winkle is described as a fairly average citizen who is very popular among the people in his village. He gets along well with everybody, adults and children alike. However, the fact that he suddenly disappears for a substantial number of years does not stop the events around him from continuing. Therefore, the theme of this short story can clearly be seen as a warning: people should not become complacent and arrogant. It is important to always try to live life to the fullest, as otherwise, one might find that time simply passes by, just like it happened to Rip Van Winkle.

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What is the main idea of "Rip Van Winkle"?

One big idea behind "Rip Van Winkle" is the magnitude of personal and societal change that can take place in twenty years. By being put to sleep for this period, Rip misses out on the death of his wife, his children growing up, and the events of the American Revolution. At the same time, as the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and Rip eventually goes back to spending most of his time at the inn.

The idea of how much can change in twenty years is encapsulated in Rip Van Winkle's appearance. Prior to him sleeping for twenty years, he was a well-known and well-liked member of the community whom many would ask for help because they knew it would always be given. After his return, however, there is at first only one person at the inn who recognizes him at all, an elderly woman who welcomes Rip home as her "old neighbor." Even Rip's daughter, who is at the inn when Rip returns to it looking for answers, does not initially recognize her father.

This visit to the inn also drives home the idea of change because Rip almost incites a riot when he tells the villagers that he is under the rule of King George III, being totally unaware that the revolution has been fought and won.

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Who is the main character in "Rip Van Winkle" and what is his portrayal?

The short story “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving is named after its main character.

Rip Van Winkle is described as not a very intelligent yet pleasant man, as he is “a simple good-natured fellow.” However, Rip Van Winkle does not seem to have much authority in his home, as the author makes it very clear that Rip Van Winkle’s wife is in charge at home, given that he describes Rip Van Winkle as “an obedient henpecked husband.”

The author also describes him as very popular amongst his fellow citizens, particularly with the other women in town, who would take his side during arguments. This popularity amongst the villagers is further supported by the fact that Rip Van Winkle is also very popular with the children and plays with them: “He assisted at their sports, made their playthings.” In fact, the children seem to be so fond of him that Rip Van Winkle “was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts,” whenever he is out and about.

In addition to this, Rip Van Winkle is also described as a man who is not after profit or earning money: the author states that he had an “aversion to all kinds of profitable labor.” However, we can see that this is not just simply because of laziness, as the author tells us that Rip Van Winkle did not generally shy away from work. He does not mind undertaking time-consuming tasks, for example fishing, and he also is keen to help others: he is described as very helpful person: ”He would never refuse to assist a neighbour.”

However, we can also see that he puts no effort into his own home—he rather spends his time helping other people rather than investing it on his farm or on his own family: “but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.”

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What is the main topic of "Rip van Winkle" by Washington Irving?

The main topic, as pohnpei stated, is to show America in two different stages: before the revolutionary war and after it. The way Irving uses Van Winkle's nap to show these differences allows for the reader to see the stark contrast of the before and after, without having to see it gradually over time. 

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What is the main topic of "Rip van Winkle" by Washington Irving?

To me, the main topic is the ways in which American life changed (and did not change) when America became independent.  (And, of course, it's just a fun story.)   Rip goes to sleep before independence and wakes up after it.  We see things like the fact that people are more inclined to talk about politics after he wakes up.  What he sees after he wakes up sort of shows us Irving's view as to how independence affected the US.

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What is the moral of "Rip Van Winkle"?

"Rip Van Winkle" illustrates the moral that energy, initiative, and ambition are important character traits for both an individual and a nation.

Rip represents a subject who passively serves a king. He is at the height of his manhood while New York, where he lives, is still a British colony. As such, he has all the attributes of a colonial. He lacks ambition, lets his farm and children run to wrack and ruin, and likes to spend his time hanging around the village inn discussing old news with his friends under the portrait of George III. He lacks initiative and direction. Rip is not a terrible person: for example, he is always willing to help a neighborhood wife with a task, but he is also simply a man bumping along aimlessly in life. Falling asleep for twenty years is entirely in keeping with the type of person Rip is.

When Rip awakens after twenty years of slumber, the world has changed. While he was asleep, the colonies fought and won the American Revolution. Rip is startled to find his sleepy village galvanized by its new status as a participatory democracy. Men bustle around with a sense of great purpose, because they have a chance to make a difference in an election. Having a say in their governance as citizens rather than simply acting as passive subjects has filled the townspeople with new energy and initiative.

Rip survives as a passive relic and example of all that was wrong with the old days. The tides of history have left him behind. Irving's story is part of the building of a national mythology celebrating the United States as a vigorous new country that has shaken off its colonial past.

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What is the message that Washington Irving is trying to transmit in "Rip Van Winkle"?

There are a number of different important messages in Rip Van Winkle, but many critics have focused on, and debated over, Washington's point about the political, social, and cultural change that had taken place in America in the years before and after the American Revolution. Rip goes to sleep before the Revolution and wakes up afterward to find that many things have changed. People move faster and are much noisier than they were before. The town has a "busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity" that used to characterize it. People are especially animated about politics, haranguing each other and arguing in ways that they never did before the Revolution.

On the other hand, there are some things that are no different than before, or at least have changed only in appearance. The inn where Rip would sit with his friends still has a picture of King George on its sign, but it has been altered to resemble George Washington. And Rip himself, once he has become acclimated a bit, manages to fit in this new society quite well. IIn fact, the event that has far more relevance to his life is his wife's death, which has also transpired while he slept. It is not clear what Irving means to suggest about the Revolution in particular, or change in general. He seems ambivalent about it at best. But it is clear that a very significant event has occurred even as Rip dozed peacefully away in the countryside, though he gained independence more from his wife's death than by the exertions of the American Revolutionaries. 

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What is the writer's message in the short story "Rip Van Winkle"?

There is an old French adage, Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose--The more things change, the more they remain the same. This, perhaps, is the political message of Washington Irving as upon his return after twenty years, Van Winkle's scrutiny of the sign for his "old resort," the village inn, reveals another George: General Washington.  However, little has changed: the red coat is now blue and bluff; a sword is in hand rather than a scepter; and the head is decorated now with a three-pointed hat.  There is in the inn, as usual a crowd, albeit more contentious.

Apparently, there is some ambiguity about this political message of Irving's. Having been accused of lack of patiotism because he lived abroad, Washington Irving may be implying in his tale that there is little difference in the two leaders, King George III and President George Washington.  Politicians argue, much in the same manner as all citizens of all European countries do, Irving may be saying. Had Rip van Winkle been around, would his presence have changed anything? How much influence, then, does one man have? Van Winkle is freed from the tyranny of his wife, it is true; however, he is not freed from politics. Plus c'est la meme choice.

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

The story is told from a third-person point-of-view by the fictive "historian" of the old Dutch in America, Diedrich Knickerbocker, but let's look a bit deeper at Irving's technique.

If we imagine the story filmed, with the narrator carrying a movie camera on his shoulder, we see that the adventure starts from afar. We begin with a sweeping view of the Catskill ("Kaatskill") mountains, then zoom in closer on a particular quaint village, and then on a particular man, the happy-go-lucky and hapless Rip van Winkle, as seen first from the point of view of his neighbors and then shown in general going about his typical business. It is not until several pages into the story that we focus in on a particular adventure concerning Rip. It begins here:

In a long ramble ... on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains.

From now on, we will see the world through Rip's eyes, as told by the narrator. Now we are no longer perceiving everything from the outside but are placed inside Rip's head, hearing his thoughts and what he felt. For instance:

...he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the village, and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle. 

That we perceive the bulk of the story now through Rip's perceptions is important because it relates to the theme: the far-reaching changes American independence and the new government have brought even to remote places.

Rip represents the sleepy old world, the colonies under King George, a place without individual or group initiative and locked in backward ways. When Rip awakes after twenty years, we experience the new country through his eyes and feel more fully the shock of how everything has changed. Irving emphasizes through Rip his underlying message (theme) that achieving independence and taking responsibility for one's destiny are invigorating and life giving. 

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

The story is written in third person omniscient point of view.  The "omniscient" narrator isn't a character in the story of Rip Van Winkle, but comments on all the other characters and what those characters are thinking.  However, Washington Irving has created a character by creating the narrator.  The writing is supposed to have been done by Diedrich Knickerbocker, an American writer who passed away before this story was published.  In truth, Irving created the character of Knickerbocker to tell a few of his different stories, giving the writer a distinctive voice and making him seem like a pompous but distant observer of American life.

The theme of this story, Rip Van Winkle, relates to the new America, the America after the revolution.  The protagonist returns to the village to see a more active a busy populace, with the average man vocally engaged in politics.  But as he hears what these men have to say about their new leader, Van Winkle feels that not much has changed since the time of King George.  Irving suggests that politically changes do little to change the character of human beings.

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" is a satire; so the author uses it to critique certain aspects about American society. One of the most notable themes is marital discontent. Rip and his wife obviously do not share a functional relationship. In addition to their constant arguing, each views the other with disdain (Rip's Wife) and resentment (Rip). Rip is not completely lazy because he is willing to work for others, but his wife's harping has driven him to resent her and eventually not to mourn when he discovers that she has died. Interestingly, Irving often features the termagant wife in his stories (see "The Devil and Tom Walker"); so one wonders why this theme is prevalent in his works--perhaps he endured a marriage filled with friction, or perhaps he is simply trying to illustrate the differences between men and women and how marriages of convenience--which were common in Rip's time period--are not always so convenient.

Another prevalent theme is the tension between Britain and the Colonies (mirrored by the relationship between Rip and his wife). When Rip wakes up, he finds out that he missed the American Revolution, and that King George's portrait has been replaced at his favorite haunt. However, from Rip's observations, nothing has changed in his town except the portrait switch, implying that the Revolution was just an exchange of one ruler for another.

Finally, "Rip Van Winkle" illustrates a common theme of Romantic authors: the importance of nature. It is only when Rip escapes to the mountains and nature's solitude that he seems content. Similarly, while asleep for all those years in nature's cocoon, Rip misses all of the familial and political conflict. Irving implies that if humans would seek the serene environment of nature rather than society's bustling atmosphere, they will be at peace and content.

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

Washington Irving's short story "Rip Van Winkle" tells the story of the titular character, who while beloved by his neighbors, children, and animals, is made miserable by his wife. When hunting squirrels in the Catskills one autumn day, Van Winkle encounters a strange little man dressed in antique Dutch clothes; Van Winkle assists him in carrying a keg up the mountain, where he sees a band of similarly attired little men. He then takes a few sips from their keg and falls asleep; when he awakens, he discovers that he has slept for many years, that his wife is dead, that his children are grown, and that the world has changed around him. 

Thematically, the story deals with conflict in marriage, the changes brought about by the American Revolution (through which Rip slept!), and the passage of time. 

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

Rip Van Winkle is a short story about a lazy man who escapes his nagging wife by hiking to the Kaatskill mountains in 1766. Once there he falls asleep, and when he wakes twenty years later things appear different, and Rip is confused. The theme of the short story is change and the true meaning of the story is its underlying commentary of a pre-revolutionary and post revolutionary America. The relationship between Rip and his nagging wife can be paralleled to the relationship between England and the colonies. When Rip speaks to a grown woman in town she realizes she is speaking to her father. She welcomes him into her home and in a sense integrates him into the new America. The story is an allegory of the entire revolutionary experience.

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

Another theme that runs through Rip Van Winkle is  lazines. Rip's laziness is eventually punished.  His punishment was to remain asleep for 20 years.  As a result of his 20 year nap, he misses watching his children grow up, his wife dies, and the village changes. He also sleeps through the entire American Revolution.

However, the story also suggests that laziness has been rewarded.  His wife, who was very critical of his lack of initiative, when he wakes up, is dead, and, therefore, he is freed from her nagging and her constant criticism.  He no longer has to run and hide in the woods to find peace in his life.

His life, after he wakes up, is better than it was before he fell asleep. 

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What are the point of view and theme in "Rip Van Winkle"?

Visit the eNotes study guide link below. There you will find a discussion of two themes of the story: the American Revolution and marital conflict.

Another theme is change. When Rip van Winkle awakens from his nap, the entire world has changed. Everything he was used to before is gone--even clothing styles have changed. Although so much is different, there are still some links to the past; his children, now adults, serve to link his old life to the new reality.

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What is the main idea of "Rip Van Winkle"?

The main idea of the story is to show how much the world has changed since Rip fell asleep twenty years before. It is a celebration of American independence from Britain.

Rip is apathetic, unambitious, happy-go-lucky, and willing to bumble through life in an unfocused way, hunting or fishing while his farm goes to wrack and ruin. He also likes to sit with his friends outside the inn under the portrait of George III and discuss old news. He is the perfect symbol of the British colonial subject, going nowhere, henpecked, and letting other people do all the thinking while he wanders aimlessly through life.

When Rip wakes up, he is surprised to find a vigorous new democracy has emerged while he has been sleeping. His once sleepy village is now animated by elections the male citizens can participate in. He is jeered when, not knowing the Revolutionary War has been fought, he declares himself a loyal subject of King George III.

Irving is contributing to nation-building with this story, creating an American myth for a young new country. The United States is depicted as vigorous, focused, red-blooded, and can-do. Rip exists as a symbol of the bad old days, when Americans were unambitious colonial subjects, willing to let England henpeck them.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

Rip van Winkle is a humorous cautionary tale.  I may have a slightly different take.  I think it is about wasting away your life, and letting the world pass you by.  So many people just go about their daily lives without really experiencing what the world has to offer.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

With the beauty of the Catskills and the quaintness of the village before Rip's enchanted sleep, Washington Irving expresses his love of Nature and his nostalgia for a slower, less contentious time.  When Rip van Winkle returns ot the village, he is met by a din of harangues.  He remembers when people sat leisurely at the inn, not haggling about political issues.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

I want to present another interpretation of the "point" behind "Rip Van Winkle":  the glorification of setting.  Rip Van Winkle has a very distinct setting:  the Catskill Mountains.  Take a look at the following excerpt:

When the weather is fair and settled they are clothes in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.

This is the place where Rip has his unusual experience, and part of the reasoning behind the story.  The reason why I am presenting this more unusual concept is because my uncle and aunt live in the Catskill Mountains, ... and they will be the first to tell you what this story has done for tourism of their area.  Whether Irving meant it to be the effect is irrelevant, ... but over the years, the "point" of the story has shifted at least somewhat to this arena.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

I agree with both of the above posts.  There is a bit of politics in the story (though I do not think it dominates the story).  I think that the dominant point of the story is entertainment.

In addition to entertainment and politics, I think that gender relations is a major point in the story.  One of the things we see in the story is how Rip hates the way his wife (in his view) nags at him and how much more free he feels when he wakes up and she is gone.

So, I think there is an element of politics and an element of "don't waste your life" and an element of commentary on marriage.  But those elements are wrapped up in a story that is really meant to be a fun read.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

I think that the end message of Irving's story is actually a political one.  There is much in the story that indicates the need for individuals to maintain connection with their political communities.  Rip is out of place in the new world because he, literally, slept through the American Revolution.  When noting the "change in character" of the people around him, this can be Irving's way of suggesting that individuals who are not turned on to politics may have politics turn on them.  Rip is out of step with his political community because he never actively identified himself as a member of such a community.  While Irving faced charges of unpatriotism with how he ended up developing his character, I think that there is a strong suggestion about how individuals lose a major part of their social and personal identities when they fail to acknowledge the political component of them.  While the overall "point" of the story might be to stay awake- literally- through live, I also believe that there is a calling out for individuals to be aware of their political state of being so thath they are able to do something about it.

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What is the point of "Rip Van Winkle"; is it just a funny story or is there something else going on?

Washington Irving's "Rip van Winkle" has become a story that represents the Early American literary voice. One of the goals of Irving was to give the new country of the United States,

some of the same feeling of tradition that older nations had because of their traditional lore.

Therefore, Irving modeled his story after German folk tales with which he had become familiar as a child and as he traveled throughout Europe. To lend realism to his own legend, Irving establishes at the beginning of his story that the tale "was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker."

In addition to the establishment of an American literary voice, Irving is credited by many with having written the first short story. Also, like many Romantic writers, Irving recalls past times with the setting of the American Revolution, expressing a certain nostalgia for the "drowsy tranquility" and less "bustling" and "disputatious" times that differed from those that followed the Revolution. Finally, there is the contribution of the folksy humor in Irving's descriptions of the termagant wife, and a "mock-heroic" humor that is not unlike that of Mark Twain.  All in all, "Rip van Winkle" is a story with a literary objective behind it.

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What is the point of "Rip Van Winkle"? Is it only a funny story or is there something else going on?

This is a very good question to ask, for as much as we enjoy the account of this tale and the poor hen-pecked Rip Van Winkle who is forced to escape his wife by running off to the woods and helps everybody else except his own family, some critics have argued that the way in which Rip Van Winkle goes to sleep before the American Revolution and wakes up after it suggests that this story somehow comments upon the Revolution. Such critics point towards the way in which the village is shown to have been changed by these momentous events and also how it is not actually presented as being that different after all.

Clearly, the passing of time has brought some changes, such as in the new faces and the new style of dress which Rip is not "accustomed" to. In addition, the "village was altered" in terms of its size and prosperity, having grown in both during his enchanted sleep. The presentation of the people of this village is likewise altered:

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

In particular, the men at the inn seem to be very interested in politics and talking about contemporary debates.

However, in spite of these changes, some critics argue that the emphasis is placed on how the intervening years have not actually changed the village and Rip's life. The inn has the same face on its sign, although some changes have been made to overtly alter the portrait:

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...

The sign says that the portrait is of "General Washington," yet the superficial changes make us question whether this historical change has actually made any lasting difference. Rip is shown to re-enter his old life very swiftly, relieved at the loss of his wife, and quickly enters the social life of the village and the inn. We are told that "the chagnes of states and empires made but little impression on him," but he is far more interested in the way in which the death of his wife impacts his life. Thus through this story Irving seems to be pointing towards the way in which the American Revolution did not actually change that much after all.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" is part of his 1809 book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., first published in 1809, which also contained "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," both tales centered in the Hudson Valley and memorializing early Dutch life in the colonies just after the American Revolution. Although it is always difficult to speculate on the point of any given piece of literature, we can reasonably assume Irving is interested in preserving the history and social fabric of those who settled what became the United States, as well as using his stories to comment on universal themes important to men and women and to the development of the country.

Clearly, one of the themes Irving explores is the relationship between husband and wife. Rip, who is described as "one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy," is wedded (not so happily) to Dame Van Winkle, a woman cut from different cloth—"his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family." The mis-match between the two precipitates the most important action of the story, Rip's departure to escape the constant haranguing of his wife. Several Irving scholars have argued that Irving, in the relationship between Rip and his wife, is commenting on the difference between the "old" pre-Revolution America, symbolized by Rip and his agrarian pursuits, and the movement toward post-Revolution America, symbolized by Dame Van Winkle, who expects action, products, money, and results. This is a plausible interpretation, but more likely Irving is contrasting two very different ways of looking at the world.

After Rip's encounter with the beings in the mountains—Irving's way of recounting Dutch settlers' folktales of the Catskill Mountains—and his return to his old village, Rip encounters a new world, figuratively and literally, because not only is his wife dead and gone, but also his home no longer exists:

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.

The twenty-year sleep has dropped Rip into post-Revolution America, now the United States, and instead of a portrait of King George III on the tavern, Rip sees George Washington. More important, perhaps, is that Rip senses the change is more than cosmetic:

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.

Irving has deposited his character into the dynamic world of late eighteenth century. America in which politics, philosophy, economics, and religion are being discussed in earnest because the new country is in the process of debating all of its foundational principles—and Rip is, until his daughter reclaims him and takes him home, a man whose country is unrecognizable.

At the end, Irving brings us back to an earlier point—the relationship between men and women—and concludes the tale with Rip's legacy to the men of this "modern" village:

and it is a common wish of all hen-pecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon.

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What is the main message of "Rip Van Winkle"?

   "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.    

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What are the themes of "Rip Van Winkle"?

The theme of this story centers around the American Revolution. When Rip falls asleep, he is living in a British colony. When he awakens 20 years later, he is living in a brand new country, the United States of America. The picture over his favorite tavern has changed from that of King George to George Washington. Now, men seem more politically aware and Rip overhears them debating politics. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Rip almost gets in trouble for saying he is loyal to the king (before he figures out what has happened to him), but he soon slips back into the lazy ways that he followed before falling asleep.

Rip also awakens to another type of independance: his wife has died. He notices that the house is not clean anymore like it was when she was alive, but he is happier to be free of her constant bickering. They did not have a good marriage. He was lazy and she was always yelling at him for being lazy. So, marital conflict is another theme.

You can read a discussion of the themes of this story here on enotes.

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What are the themes of "Rip Van Winkle"?

One of the major themes is the inevitability of change. Rip goes to sleep not expecting anything important to have happened during the night; upon waking, he discovers that he has lost years of his life without even knowing it. Rip never thought anything would change; he thought his life would continue as it had in the past without any real difference. However, change occurs without human intervention, and the passage of many years is not necessary to have great changes made.

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.
(Irving, "Rip Van Winkle," bartlby.com

Rip finds a new, peaceful existance in a place which was his home, but is now as foreign as any far-off land. His surprise at the amount of time that has passed is easy to understand, but can be felt by people in ordinary circumstances as well; it is easy to wake up and realize that the last few years have flown by and things have changed. Rip's experience was more dramatic than most, but shares the sense of loss, confusion, and denial.

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What are the themes of "Rip Van Winkle"?

The theme or underlying meaning of "Rip Van Winkle" is to highlight the contrasts between the apathetic old days of New York as an English colony with the vigorous new energy it has as part of a new republic.

Rip symbolizes the old days. He is happy-go-lucky, without ambition, and avoids rather then confronts his bullying, shrewish wife. Instead of working in a purposeful way, Rip is happier wandering in the woods with his rifle, fishing, or sitting around the inn under the picture of King George III, sleepily discussing current events that are already a month old.

After he falls asleep for twenty years, he returns to a changed village, now invigorated and fully alive. Its new energy is brought on by the freedom the country enjoys as an independent republic and participatory democracy. Lackadaisical, dreamy men like Rip are relics of another era, out of place in this new, more vigorous, and purposeful world.

In writing a story that highlights the pride and positive changes that independence has brought, Irving participates in building the mythos of the young new United States.

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What are the themes of "Rip Van Winkle"?

Washington Irving's story of Rip Van Winkle begs the question, "What would it be like to sleep through your life and wake up an old man?" Not only that, but the themes of marriage and the change of governments during the American Revolutionary period also permeate the story. Another possible theme would be the ultimate way of avoiding one's duties and responsibilities. For example, Mrs. Van Winkle yells at her husband for being lazy and never following through on his duties. Rip isn't happy with his marriage, so it is ironic that he finds a way to subconsciously avoid dealing with it by falling asleep until she dies. He also avoids dealing with the issues surrounding the American Revolution, choosing a side--Loyalist or Patriot, and having to fight a war. The next question to be asked is if Rip feels like he missed out on life by avoiding it through sleep, or if it was exactly what he would have chosen had the choice been consciously given to him?

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What are the themes of "Rip Van Winkle"?

One lesson that seems to pervade Irving's humorous tale is that, ironically, the indolent Rip, at least, knows how to enjoy the beauty of nature and the value of friendship.

A strong theme lies with that of the American Revolution. Critics have long wondered at the implications of Irving:  Does he think that George Washington is not so different from King George, after all?  Is Rip van Winkle's laziness a call for more involvment in politics, or does it really not matter?

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What is the story and meaning of "Rip Van Winkle"?

Your question is very broad, and we usually deal with specific questions at eNotes. I can give you a brief overview and direct you to some eNotes sites that will fill in the details for you.

"Rip Van Winkle" is a short story about a man (Rip) who lives in a Dutch village at the foot of the Catskill Mountains in New York. The tall tale opens and closes with a narrator who tells the reader that he/she should believe the story and assures us that it is indeed true. Then the narrator begins his story. Rip has a farm, but he spends most of his time drinking and talking at the local inn, playing with other children, or helping neighbors. He, however, neglects his own farm, and his wife, Dame Van Winkle, has quite a few things to say to Rip about his neglect. One day, Rip goes into the woods to escape his nagging wife (Rip's opinion)and falls asleep for twenty years. It is just before the American Revolution, about 1770, when he falls asleep. When Rip awakens, he doesn't realize how long he's been sleeping until he goes down the mountain to his village. He realizes the American Revolution has been fought and won and is told his wife has died. Rip comes across his daughter and goes to live with her, happy that he's no longer fettered by the "yoke of matrimony".

As for the meaning  of the story, go the themes site below, and it will give you the necessary information. You might also want to reread or skim over the story to better understand it.

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