Rip Van Winkle

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The Union Hotel Symbol Icon
The Union hotel represents the inverse of the old inn. It is now occupied by industrious political activists, who, instead of lazily concerning themselves with outdated news, are occupied by the upcoming Presidential election. The tree under which the old innkeeper used to sleep has been replaced by a flagpole flying the stars and stripes of the union—this is an ominous sign of the new America’s increasing interest in industry and patriotism displacing a love of nature. George Washington’s face, also, has replaced King George’s. Where previously the inn had been a place of idle amusement overseen by a generally absent tyrant, it is now a place of industry, labor, and patriotism.

The Union Hotel Quotes in Rip Van Winkle

The Rip Van Winkle quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Union Hotel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tyranny vs. Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Rip Van Winkle published in 1999.
“Rip Van Winkle” Quotes

He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the little village inn—but it too was gone. A large rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken, and mended with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree which used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes…he recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George…but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was stuck in the hand instead of a scepter, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle , Jonathan Doolittle
Related Symbols: The Union Hotel
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Rip Van Winkle struggles to come to terms with his new reality. He's been asleep for twenty years, meaning that almost everything about his life has disappeared or changed enormously. Rip's favorite places to hang out, such as the local inn, have been torn down and replaced with new structures. Notice that the building standing in place of the inn is larger and less personal than its predecessor--a symbol, perhaps, of the way America has become bigger, more industrial, and altogether less friendly to an easygoing sort like Rip.

Perhaps the biggest change in American society in the twenty years Rip missed is the replacement of George III's monarchy with home-grown American democracy. Rip has missed the Revolutionary War entirely. Irving implies that the subtler cultural changes Rip notices--the new emphasis on industry and productivity, which make his old way of life impossible--are also consequences of the Revolution.


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He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Dr. Doolittle’s hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood but knew it by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head, and this was one point on which he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle , Jonathan Doolittle
Related Symbols: The Union Hotel
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we take our leave of Rip Van Winkle. Rip enjoys spending his time telling people his remarkable story--he sits in the Union Hotel that's replaces his old inn, talking to anyone who'll listen to him. Although Rip has lost some of his old family (his wife), he's gained a new family--the informal "family" of hotel patrons who listen to him every evening, as well as his own grown children and grandchild.

Amusingly, the story ends exactly where it began--by simultaneously affirming and questioning its own veracity. Knickerbocker assures us that Rip has gotten his story straight, but the very fact that it used to "vary" in its details undermines the likely truth of the account. And either way, its now been repeated so many times that some details have surely been erased or exaggerated along the way. Such are the pitfalls of the American folk tradition that Washington Irving lovingly celebrates.

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The Union Hotel Symbol Timeline in Rip Van Winkle

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Union Hotel appears in Rip Van Winkle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“Rip Van Winkle”
Tyranny vs. Freedom Theme Icon
Active vs. Passive Resistance Theme Icon
Labor vs. Productivity Theme Icon
Change vs. Stasis Theme Icon
...unsettled, Rip hurries to the old inn, but finds in its place an establishment called The Union Hotel . The portrait of King George III on the sign has been changed to a... (full context)