There are many possible meanings behind Washington Irving’s short story “Rip Van Winkle.” On the surface, it is about a man with a termagant wife who retreats to the woods one autumn afternoon to escape her “henpecking” only to encounter a strange man with a keg on his back who leads Rip to an opening in the woods where a bunch of people are morosely playing an archaic Dutch game; Rip then takes a swig from the keg and falls into a 20 year sleep only to
awaken having slept through the American Revolution. “Rip Van Winkle” has many possible deeper meanings, however; it could be about man’s need to escape when his life becomes insufferable; it could be about the paradox of no matter how much things change, they always stay the same; it could even be an antiBritish allegory in which Dame Van Winkle represents the tyranny of King George III; or perhaps it’s just a fun little fairy tale with various historical allusions aimed to blur the line between fact and fiction. The meanings are infinitely interpretable. Regardless of the real meaning, however, the fact remains that (a) the character of Rip awakens to find the country he lives in to be totally changed and doesn’t really care because nothing about his own life has really changed much, and that (b) there is some deeper meaning behind this story.
That said, just for fun, students will imagine this story took place today. Students will imagine that a man named Rip falls asleep 20 years ago and just woke up (or they could imagine he falls asleep today and then wakes up in 20 years from now). What has changed, what is his attitude towards it, and what social commentary does Rip’s reaction imply?
Students will follow a 10-paragraph story structure or use a comic strip template to relay their stories.