The Devil and Tom Walker Theme is a theme deceived from the book; The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving. The book’s central theme is the story of Tom Walker, a physician, and member of The Order Of Cincinnati, who lived in Kentucky. He had an affair with Nanny Wallace, also named “Tom’s Wife.”
Let’s look at the summary and analysis of the book and the different Devil and Tom Walker themes below!
Summary of the Devil and Tom Walker
‘The Devil and Tom Walker,’ a short tale written by Washington Irving and based on Faust’s German story, was first published in 1824. ‘The Devil and Tom Walker feature a Faustian theme, synopsis, characters, and symbolism. It also contains Romantic elements.
However, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle,’ like Washington Irving’s other short stories, are more famous than ‘The Devil and Tom Walker.’ The narrative, however, is based on a well-known German tale about a guy called Faust who strikes a deal with the Devil to gain knowledge and riches.
The story has three main characters; Tom Walker, Tom’s Wife, and Old Scratch.
Thomas Walker, the tale’s protagonist, is a miser who seldom spends money when he should. His wife is one of the few people he does not provide for.
Tom’s wife is as miserly as he is, but she has a temper. The townspeople think she is perhaps even physically violent toward Tom because she is frequently verbally violent.
Old Scratch is referred to as a wild huntsman and black woodsman in the narrative. He’s the Devil, but he’s neither Black nor Native American. He’s a black guy. He’s armed with an axe and has a filthy, soot-covered complexion. Remember that he, as a person with supernatural abilities, is a physical character in the narrative.
With witnesses passing down the narrative throughout the years, Irving presents it as an ancient tale, giving it some weight for his audience. He begins by explaining how Kidd the Pirate buried gold on the banks of Boston and how the Devil himself now guards its secret location after he died. Irving then describes Tom and his wife, who are miserly and mean, before moving on to the core of the narrative.
Tom decides to shortcut home across the marsh one day while walking home. A soot-faced guy, referred to as Old Scratch, confronts him as he sits down on a log to relax. In return for “specific terms,” Old Scratch reveals himself to be the Devil and offers Tom large sums of money.
Tom’s wife encourages him to accept the offer when he returns home to discuss it with her. He is hesitant to accept the offer because he doesn’t like his wife and does not want to share any money with her. His wife, enraged, resolves to visit Old Scratch herself instead of waiting for him.
On the other hand, Tom goes looking for her after she does not reappear after a few days. He knows she’s dead (and he’s pretty delighted about it) since he finds her heart and liver bundled up in her apron after scouring the woods, so he can make his deal with the Devil without having to share anything.
After a talk in which Tom decides to be a dishonest usurer (someone who lends money), Tom departs for Boston, where he lives a prosperous and corrupt existence. After a few years, Tom becomes concerned about the possible punishment for his actions and seeks redemption at church. Of course, this doesn’t work when Tom wakes up one morning with his Bible underneath a mound of mortgages.
The Devil and Tom Walker Theme
The topic of avarice and its detrimental aspects is central in Washington Irving’s, The Devil and Tom Walker’s story. Tom Walker’s greed leads him to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for money and search for supernatural powers, and it is this greed has made him well-known throughout Charles Bay and Old Indian Fort.
Tom’s greed in Irving’s story is intended to caution readers that riches might blind them, as they may discover in The Devil and Tom Walker theme, which has terrible repercussions like eternal damnation. At the same time, it’s against the church doctrine.
In most tales about the devil, the devil incarnate represents temptation as human nature; this tale is no exception. Tom’s encounters with Old Scratch demonstrate how dangerous it is to give in to temptation, and they encourage readers to be extremely cautious before doing so. Tom was weak, and he paid the price because it shows strength to overcome desire in favour of what is right.
Even though Tom’s moral instruction is not in the best place at first, his morals continue to deteriorate over time until Tom becomes as immoral as the devil himself. Even though money is at stake, Tom initially refuses to accept Old Scratch’s conditions. However, Old Scratch steadily erodes his morality until it has completely deteriorated, and he may face a poor man from who he has bled money and claim that he has made no profit.
Tom manipulates Old Scratch to get the buried treasure by assuring him that he will relinquish his uncle to the devil so he can get rich.
Good vs. Evil
The Devil and Tom Walker theme of good versus evil is naturally present in the narrative since it deals with the devil. The description implies that evil stems from avarice and hypocrisy, as seen by Tom’s destiny, and they are not without consequence. According to this narrative, this destiny is also avoidable: individuals may live “good” lives, combat evil, and escape the devil if they have the correct ideals and sound judgment like Tom did not.
Old Scratch understands what it takes to get Tom to accept his demands in Irving’s story: a pledge of sufficient riches and prosperity for the rest of his life. Tom also controls the money brokers who approach him for money, emphasizing their poverty and desire for a better life until they have nothing left.
Tom manipulates the clients he takes to Old Scratch by using the patrons themselves. He makes them feel like they have been “bought” and cannot return the favour if Tom gets in trouble with the law.
Caution should be used while bargaining with anybody, and “The Devil and Tom Walker” makes this clear in this situation. Tom does not consider the implications of the contract he has struck and faces a terrifying prospect of eternal damnation due to his actions.
When Tom’s wife rushes to accept the devil’s conditions, she is murdered due to her haste. When dealing with everyone, warn readers to be cautious about where they go and ensure that the requirements are thoroughly understood, or one may regret agreeing to them.
Swamp symbolizes the poor economy of the area in which this narrative takes place, and it is a necessary location for contracting Tom Walker’s services. The short story about the slave trade takes place in the swamp.
The Devil and Tom Walker theme of religion is shown after the story. When Tom believes he can atone for his sins by pretending to be a devout Christian on the outside while continuing his miserly, heartless habits, religion plays a significant role in this narrative.
Just as Tom illustrates in the text, the narrative denounces religious hypocrisy shown by other Christians. Puritans are also implicitly chastised for persecuting individuals who do not share their beliefs in this narrative.
Deacon Peabody is forced to retire from his position as a deacon, but the upper class still does not like him and ostracizes their former servant. The greatest friendship he ever made was with Tom, who is also excluded from the community.
The community also hates the slave trader, who is killed at a family reunion.
Tom’s decisions in this narrative are examples of his disregard for others’ well-being in favour of material wealth and financial success. He is more concerned about Old Scratch murdering his wife than about losing his valuable property.
He has no compassion for those who approach him for financial assistance and drains them dry instead. Tom’s values are misplaced, and he is punished due to it.
The Devil and Tom Walker theme of value connect to several other themes, including religion, crime, and greed. Religion is often used in this short story as a tool against poor people or live under the poverty line like members of outcast communities such as Scrubby Jones’ family.
Shadow characters such as Father Abraham stand outside society using code names for their role in determining if someone should be dealt with harshly on trial alone because they are poor and therefore perceived not to have any say-so in their fate.
It can be seen that there is deviant belief, prejudice, a disguised bias that causes spiritual tribulations for moralistic characters who are poor like Tom Walker’s family. This theme even reflects how society looks down on those without privilege and power.
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