“Rip Van Winkle” is a short story that was written by American author Washington Irving. Irving was born in New York City at the end of the American Revolution (the war in which Americans gained independence from Great Britain). Many things changed before and after the American Revolution, and “Rip Van Winkle” is a story about those changes.
The main character in the story is a man named Rip Van Winkle. He lives in the Catskill Mountains in New York, and everyone loves him. His only problem is that his wife always nags (asks or demands again and again and again…) him to do more work around the house. He is tired of listening to her, so one day, he walks up into the mountains with his dog. He meets some men who are carrying beer, and he starts drinking with them. He falls asleep, and when he wakes up, everything is different. His dog is gone. His beard is a foot long (about 30 cm). His gun is rusty.
Rip walks down to his village, but he doesn’t know anyone, and he thinks their clothes are strange. The houses are new, and the village is bigger. His own house is old, dirty, and falling apart. Rip notices that the people seem different. They used to be relaxed, but now they are very busy. When he left, there was a picture of King George III (King of England at the time of the American Revolution) in the inn, but now, there is a picture of George Washington (hero of the Revolutionary War and 1st president of the United States). Rip Van Winkle slept through the whole war! He slept for 20 years!
After such a long time, Rip’s wife is dead, and his children are adults. Rip used to be an important man, but the people in the village do not know him now. Finally, an old woman identifies him. Then Rip’s daughter takes him home to live with her family, and he spends every day at the inn, where he tells his story to everyone. Some people find him strange and interesting. Some people are jealous because he escaped his wife and slept through the war. Some people like hearing about the old days. But everyone knows his story.