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The Inconsistent Van Winkle Rip Van Winkle fails to represent a prototype for an American hero because he lacks the work ethic promoted by American culture to achieve the American Dream. Washington Irvin’s story depicts Rip Van Winkle lazing around his home and village. While he is beloved by all except for his wife because he is amiable, generous and a storyteller, he fails to properly tend to his farm. Rip Van Winkle’s 20-year slumber can be considered punishment for his idle ways, even though Irving somewhat sentimentalizes the easy-going lifestyle that Rip Van Winkle demonstrates. In the early 19th Century, when Irving wrote the story, America was an agricultural country that relied upon the productivity and hard work of its family farmers. The work ethic in American culture demanded discipline and personal responsibility, neither of which Rip Van Winkle demonstrates. “[I]t was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything about it went wrong, and would go wrong” (Irving 3). Irving’s description of Rip Van Winkle’s farm illustrates his condemnation of Rip Van Winkle’s failure to honor the work ethic of the American farmer in the early 19th Century, the primary strength of which is individual autonomy and national improvement. However, Irving also sentimentalizes the lifestyle and slumber of Rip Van Winkle, and thus he recognizes the drawbacks of the work ethic. After he awakens, the war is over and life has returned to normal. Some members of the village fantasize about how nice it would be to “have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon” (Irving 35). He has avoided the hardship of the Revolutionary era. He has also escaped the constant criticism of his wife. Irving presents Rip Van Winkle, his lifestyle and his slumber not as heroic or something to emulate; rather, these are presented as a desirable but generally unattainable respite from the work ethic, which demands much of the individual’s time and energy.

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