Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle


Rip Van Winkle is a story written by Washington Irving in 1819. It was written during the duration surrounding the American Revolution. Colonies united to break free from British rule. Later, these colonies amalgamated to form one great nation. The period prior to the revolution and after was marked with change. The society shifted in communal, political and logical aspects. Freedom was their objective. In comparison, Rip Van Winkle is also a story about change and transformation. The story revolves around a family man known as Rip. He had no desire to do any productive work. Instead, he preferred to have fun with the children and chitchat. One particular day, he strolled in to the mountains. While he was there, he stumbled across spirits playing. He then got drunk and fell asleep (Irving 10). The next time he woke up, he had grown old. On his way back to the village, he began to notice change. Everything he had grown familiar too had changed. This story just like the American Revolution is about change and this change influences society. Change is inevitable in every society. The Rip Van Wrinkle symbolizes the change and transformation during the American Revolution.


            The story interprets the time of radical societal and political revolution that came up because of the revolution. The story is told in two parts, before Rip fell asleep and after he woke up. The twenty years that Rip was asleep represents the years that American was under the British rule. The first part is marked by the period before the revolution. Thoughts are changing; the people became uncomfortable with the British rule. Strategies were formed and alliances built. A storm was brewing up. In the same manner, Rip got tired with helping everyone it was not easy for him to manage his family and the farm (Irving 50). He desired change. This period was characterized by uselessness and redundancy. Rip had no desire to work, he preferred to spend his time roaming around and amusing himself with the children. This idleness caused him to go roaming around the mountains. While he was there, he drank himself to sleep and missed the revolution. The same redundancy was experienced in America. The country was not developing because all the benefits were channeled to Europe. The British rule exploited the American people. No one had the desire to work in order to build another Nation.

In the story, Rip symbolizes an American citizen while his wife Dame represents the British rule. His wife used to be in authority and she could go about dominating everyone. Even the dog was afraid of her. She is symbolic of the British rule, which had a strong arm. Dame   constantly nagged and shouted at his husband. She often talked about his laziness and careless ways. His wife harassed him and controlled him (Irving 36). All this time, Rip said nothing. He had endured the harassment for a long time. He was afraid to talk back and voice out his opinions and feelings. He feared that his wife would shout more and continue mistreating him. This can be connected to the period before the revolution. Just like Rip, the Americans were afraid of opposing the British rule. They lived in constant fear of torture by the British rulers. The period before Rip fell asleep represents the period before the revolution. The Americans used to be in bondage. When Rip first returns home, everything is different. The village stands for the American community. Suddenly, there is color and life all around him. This symbolizes the moments after the revolution. Dame is dead thus, the period of bondage is over. There is life in America, the scholars begin to think and invent. The citizens get a new zeal for life. All the efforts are channeled to developing the countries.

In Rip Van Wrinkle, a new picture of General George Washington has replaced the picture of King George III (Irving 436). It represented the dawning of a new day, a change in governance. This symbolizes a change in government. The story further talks about the important things in life. When Rip woke up, he could not recognize the material things that surround him. His gun was rusty and the houses were destroyed. He only remembered people. In the same way, after the revolution, people were important to each other. The buildings were damaged. The economy was not stable. After struggling to gain their independence, the colonies united to form a great nation. Rip also joined his family and they lived happily. Dame was no longer there to shout and yell at him. One of the lessons that can be learned from this book is about participation. Rip did not actively play a part in the revolution. While the revolution was going on, Rip was asleep. This signifies his desire in staying on the sidelines instead of playing a role and helping out. This story further reminds us that change will come with different generations. However, family and loved ones will always remain. The norms and values that we treasure and uphold will also keep on alive and blossoming.


The Rip Van Winkle story supports the American Revolution. Most of the events during and before the revolution are symbolic to the plot in the book. The story talks about change between two different generations. This represents before and after Rip fell asleep in the mountain. The village stands for the American community. The changes in the surrounding symbolize the changes in America. A different regime had come into power. Rip’s lazy character describes the Americans at that period. They had no desire and zeal to work. Rip’s wife, Dame represents the British rule. She was constantly pestering and shouting. She had a dominant character or personality (Irving 36). Her family was afraid of her, even the dog behaved differently when she was around. The story talks of one important lesson, which is to participate in the revolution.

Work Cited

 Irving, Washington. Rip Van Winkle. New York, NY: Cornelius Van Winkle, 1819. Print.





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