Washington Irving was born in New York at the end of the revolutionary war. His parents were of Scottish and English heritage. Irving's parents named him after the man they admired the most, General George Washington. Irving is known best as the first American to make his living solely as a writer. Between the years 1815 to 1832 Irving lived and traveled throughout Europe. Irving spent most of his European time in the countries of England, France, Germany, and Spain. William Hedges tells us that, "by 1820 he had become a partial convert to romanticism, catering to the vogue for tearful sentimentality (though he made fun of it too) and exhibiting romantic interests in landscape, folklore, and the past" (2072). Irving wrote "Rip Van Winkle" while he was in Europe along with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". However, Hedges says, " both stories, with their evocative American settings, were partly inspired by German folk motifs" (2072). "Rip Van Winkle" can be described as a satire poking fun at both the Puritans and the hard working Yankees of the early Union. .
Many have looked at the character of Rip and say that he was a disgrace and contributed nothing to society. Watson is one of the critics that believe this when he says, " the only role for Rip to play in the future is to be a quaint relic of the forgotten past." Watson feels that without Rip Van Winkle having the last twenty years of his life, he cannot contribute anything to the new society that Rip Van Winkle is living in. Watson goes on to say "Rip must simply remain passive while his culture and way of life are destroyed for lack of an anchor. Such is the fate of those without a history.".
Watson compares Rip Van Winkle to the young United States in that the United States is trying to forget its past and only concentrate on the present. Also, Rip Van Winkle is "an overgrown boy who refuses to grow up" (Watson). Rip Van Winkle has always been immature, in that he does not take care of his responsibilities.