Rip Van Winkle was a dearly loved person in his village. He loved being with children. He played, brought toys, and narrated tales for them which they enjoyed overwhelmingly. Thus his popularity was unrivaled in the village when it came to children. Although he was at all times ridiculed by his wife, this generated compassion for him amongst other wives of the village. He was all the time prepared to do anything for a neighbor who needed help and often was found performing out-of-the-ordinary chores for housewives. His benevolent face made him “beloved in the town”.
He was a straightforward, even-tempered man. A progeny of the Van Winkles, he dwelled in a weathered residence during the point in time when New York used to be an English protectorate. His character has been presented as an exceptionally cheerful, benign, and friendly person who is devoted to helping others at any moment without expecting any returns.
The story is staged with an American Revolution background. Just before the revolution sets in, Rip Van Winkle meanders away in the woods. There he accepts some form of liquor from a stranger and dozes off. When he wakes up, the author explains that considerable time has passed off by means of circumstantial changes. For example, he finds out that one of his companions died eighteen years ago and another is now a member of the congress and that he is a citizen of a new country. He finds himself in face of a renewed social and political order. Thus, Rip Van Winkle has become an allusion to someone who has been ignorant of change in the surroundings –be it political or social.
The author explains that it is Election Day when Rip returns to the village. Irving derides the ideals of the new bipartisan political order, with the first inquiry Rip faces. He is asked about his political orientation -Federal, or Democrat. Irving further ridicules politicians and their designated authority in the new administration. The impuissance and suspicion of the immature system are revealed when Rip is charged with attempts to instigate an insurgence and later accused of being an enemy spy. Sometime later, he learns about the death of his tyrant wife. This sardonic death symbolizes the British losing control over the colonies owing to their overpowered anger and lack of concern for their protectorates. The feeling aroused Rip in on hearing of his wife’s death is that of “comfort,” which is comparable to the emotional respite heaved by the liberated colonies.
The two stretches of time the author compares are the twenty years span commencing from just before the start of the American Revolution. When Rip, the protagonist, renters the village he observes several changes. The village felt bigger than what he last saw of it, with an increased population. He noticed weird houses with names of strangers engraved on their doors. His own abode had become a ruin with wrecked windows and a buckled roof. The inn where he relaxed with his cohorts had significantly altered. Instead, there stood a rickety building with the words: “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle” painted in front. The men outside were unrecognizable and their subjects of discussion, as well as their speech, were apparently gibberish for Rip. Besides comparing the political modifications during that epoch, the narrative also adverts to the economic transformation from a more bucolic economy to a progressive urban one. While Rip’s perception of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains was a decidedly romanticized one, the place to which he returned, corresponded to a much more prosaic setting. The author points out the relief and comfort amongst the populace subsequent to liberation on one hand but at the same time exposes the naivety of the nascent administration and paranoia in the society. However, Rip regains his social status in due course symbolizing that better or worse, the show of life, undeniably, goes on.