General Overview of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

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In Washington Irving's short story “Rip Van Winkle” the main character experiences many changes while asleep atop a mountain range for 20 years. Within the 20 years, the main character Rip Van Winkle sleeps through the American Revolution and comes back to his town where he encounters new people and a new town altogether. Some of the changes that he encounters are that his friends were gone, his family is all grown up and has a grandson, his wife died, the town was bigger than when he left, and all the people were not loyal subjects to the king.

Once Van Winkle wakes up he goes down the mountain, back to the village where he is astonished by how the village has changed in one night. Once he reaches the village square he is searching for his house. When he finds his house he notices that it is abandoned and no one was inside. After looking closer he finds a white dog and once looking closer he notices that the dog is his old dog, Wolf. Rip goes to the motel where he would chat with his friends, once he arrived he saw that they were not there. After glancing around he asks the people there if they remembered his friends and they responded with the following, 'Nicholas Vedder! why he is dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the church-yard that used to tell all about him, but that's rotten and gone too.','Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony Point--others say he was drowned in a squall at the foot of Antony's Nose. I don't know--he never came back again.' [page 7]. All these responses confused Rip.

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After this scene of confusion Rip asks if anyone knew Rip Van Winkle in which the villagers answer “Oh, to be sure! that's Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree.'[page 7] After looking where the man was pointing Rip is amazed and confused. The person at the tree was an exact replica of himself and at that moment Rip started to doubt his own existence. A woman named Judith Gardenier came holding a child named Rip. When Rip asked her who her father was, she replied, “Ah, poor man, his name was Rip Van Winkle; it’s twenty years since he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of since—his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself, or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a little girl.' She also stated that her mother had died when she suffered a broken blood vessel shouting at a peddler.

Once Rip approached the once inn he did not notice any of the people there. After listening to people's conversations Rip is baffled with all these weird phrases such as The Union Hotel, rights of citizens, election, members of Congress, liberty, Bunker’s Hill, and heroes of ’76. After walking for a while one man asked him how he voted. Another man asked whether he was a Federal or a Democrat. A third man with a cane, seeing the old gun, asked whether Rip had come to the village to start a riot. Rip exclaimed that with the following statement, “I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!' At that, they declared him a Loyalist and a spy.

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General Overview of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
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