Washington Irving wrote Rip Van Winkle with the American people in mind. At this time society was changing drastically. America was attempting to go through a struggle with forming their identity. America wanted to have an identity that would set them free from English culture and rule. Irving uses his main character, Rip Van Winkle, to symbolize America. Rip goes through the same struggles that America was going through at this time before and after the Revolution. The good samaritan he is; always running errands for wives and bonding with the neighborhood children, Rip shows a lack of responsibility for his himself and his land. Although he cares for others, he fails to support his own family. His weak initiative leads him into the Kaatskil Mountains where, yet again, helps someone else, but this time he mysteriously slips into a coma for twenty years. He pays no attention to his personal work at home. He fails to acknowledge his own son Rip Jr., who is known as a "...urchin in the village..." (Irving).
Irving uses such great symbolism in this story to describe the changes that American society went through. This story covers a wide variety of time periods including America before English rule, early American colonies under English rule, and America after the Revolutionary War.
One main issue of the story was one of identity, especially at this time in history. Rip was having difficulty finding him throughout the story. She always disapproves of his actions and carelessness towards his family. As shown in the story, "If left to himself... but his wife... his ears of idleness...."(Irving). Rip seems to never want to care for his family or home, which Dame, in response, is always on his case for being "idle" and sidetracked. Even stated by David M. Galens, "He is a ‘simple good-natured man...through the scolding of his wife.” Rip is good to everyone, but Dame never buys his foolishness. Rip never finds