Rip Van Winkle is the story of a henpecked man who travels one day into the Catskill Mountains where he happens upon a stranger struggling to lug a barrel of liquor up the slope. Assisting, Rip happens upon an amphitheater of strange men playing billiards. He drinks from the barrel and falls asleep, then wakes up many decades later after the end of the American Revolutionary War. The story is a parable for isolation from war and for forgetting the painful memories it causes.
Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories contains several classic early American tales, including that of Ichabod Crane, the nervous schoolteacher who is frightened by the Headless Horseman, and Rip Van Winkle, who falls asleep for 20 years only to awaken and discover that his nagging wife has died. These stories often delve into class issues and display an affection for poorer, virtuous characters; colonial America, English tradition, greed, imagination, and death are also explored in these stories.