Rip Van Winkle Discussion Questions

Rip Van Winkle is a mythic tale set in the Hudson Valley known throughout the world. Here are but a few provocative questions inspired by a contemporary reading of Rip Van Winkle:

What if you were alive but “slept through” an event such as the American Revolution (or the events of 9/11, the Vietnam War, or any number of other transformative conflicts)?  What are the consequences of  being apathetic or passive about public and personal life? To what extent, are you a participant in your own times or life?

Is Rip Van Winkle a prototype for an American “hero?”  What does Rip Van Winkle suggest about the American Dream? Does hard work lead to success?  What are strengths and drawbacks of a commitment to the Work Ethic?

How do a people develop a collective identity?  What ontributes to a sense of nationalism or national unity?  How did Washington Irving contribute to the development of nationalism, beginning in the 1820’s?  How important is tradition for a people?

Aging in America.  Is it true that people reach an age where they “can do nothing with impunity?”  How do previous generations contribute to lasting societal change?

From today’s perspective, is Rip Van Winkle politically correct?

In the portrayal of Dame Van Winkle as a “cultural villain,”  what is learned about the historical role and status of women? How are other women portrayed in the story? Learning about the Van Winkle husband-wife relationship reveals much about their culture.  To what extent are we a product of our own culture?  How much control do we exercise over the lives we live?

Was Rip Van Winkle a success in his life?

We are interested in your thoughts for discussion questions, thematic activities and events. Email us with your ideas at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s