What is the moral of "Rip Van Winkle"?

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

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"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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