Rip Van Winkle

The protagonist of the story, Rip Van Winkle is a genial, passive man living in a small Dutch province in the Catskills, who spends his time engaging in work that is not useful or profitable, such as hunting squirrels and doing odd jobs in houses and gardens that aren’t his own. He is the “henpecked husband” of his constantly nagging wife, Dame Van Winkle, from whom he is often hiding, and who is the cause of most of Rip’s unhappiness. Rip ventures up to the top of a mountain one day while squirrel hunting and encounters strange beings who bewitch him with liquor such that he sleeps for 20 years, missing the American Revolution and the dramatic transformation of both his town and the country around it.

Rip Van Winkle Quotes in Rip Van Winkle

The Rip Van Winkle quotes below are all either spoken by Rip Van Winkle or refer to Rip Van Winkle. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Rip Van Winkle published in 1999.
“Rip Van Winkle” Quotes

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar’s lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble…in a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, it was impossible.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Rip Van Winkle, Jr.
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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His wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Dame Van Winkle
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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On nearer approach, he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion—a cloth jerkin strapped around the waist—several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees.

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle, Hendrick Hudson / the crew of the Half Moon
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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As he approached the village, he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Rip now resumed his old walks and habits…[he] was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle of the old times “before the war.”

Related Characters: Diedrich Knickerbocker (speaker), Rip Van Winkle
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Rip Van Winkle Character Timeline in Rip Van Winkle

The timeline below shows where the character Rip Van Winkle 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
Truth, History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Labor vs. Productivity Theme Icon
Change vs. Stasis Theme Icon
...farm and his land is severely run down. His children are unruly, and his son, Rip Van Winkle Jr . is determined to grow up to be just like his father. His wife’s lecturing... (full context)