What changes occurred in Rip Van Winkle's world during his twenty-year sleep?

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What was changing in Rip Van Winkle's world during his twenty-year sleep was the form of government. He went to sleep the loyal colonial subject of King George III and woke to life in a new democratic republic, the United States.

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A profound change comes into Rip Van Winkle's world during his twenty years asleep. On the day Rip heads out for his ramble deep in the mountains that leads to his encounter with a group of mysterious, supernatural, old-fashioned Dutch people, New York is a British colony. Rip, who often sits talking with other men under the portrait of George III in front of the inn, leaves town accepting the king as his monarch. While Rip is sleeping, however, the American Revolution is fought. The colonies win independence and create a republic based on democratic principles.

When Rip wakes up and returns to town, unaware that twenty years have passed, he stumbles into a village caught up in the excitement of an election all the men can have a voice in. The once sleepy, apathetic town has been energized and galvanized by being part of an independent new country.

Rip at first offends people when he describes himself as a loyal subject of the king. Later, he becomes a relic of the bad old days of apathy and aimlessness that are now associated with being a British colony.

Irving is participating in creating a national mythology for the United States as he writes this story and others, highlighting the distinctive energy and potential of the new nation.

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What was changing in Rip Van Winkle's world?

Rip Van Winkle provides a window to the American Revolution from the vantage of a Dutch burger in the Catskill mountains. What changed in Rip's world was the sovereign authority to whom the locals owed their allegiance. Van Winkle falls asleep for 20 years, and when he wakes up, the portrait in the inn is no longer that of King George III, but that of President George Washington.

The story of Rip Van Winkle explores power dynamics in interpersonal relationships. The author uses the character of Rip to compare two different periods of time. When Rip wakes up, he has neither an abusive wife nor an unjust king, but has a place of honor in the town square and a democratically elected president. Rip's relationships with his family, friends, and neighbors thus can be seen as an analogy to the changing forms of political authority in the new United States of America.

Keep in mind, of course, that not all change is change for the better. The American Revolution brings cultural upheaval to the town. Not all of that change is necessarily for the better. More likely, the author, Irving, thinks some insight can be gained into the human predicament by juxtaposing the two periods of time in which the story of Rip takes place. Most of human life is lived under the sway of authorities other than one's own self--be that a spouse, a king, or a president.

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