How does Irving create humor in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Irving creates humor, in large part, through irony and subtle sarcasm.  Tom Walker and his wife are described in the second paragraph as being extremely miserly.  In the next paragraph, he tells the reader that these two fought so much and so loudly, that passers-by, especially men, rejoiced in their bachelorhood, i.e., they were happy to be single rather than married to such a nasty wife.  When Tom tells his wife about his encounter with the devil and his reluctance to sign, she is so greedy that she wants to make her own pact with the devil.  She sets off to the woods to do so and is never seen again.  Her husband's only lament is that she had taken off with some of their household goods of value.  Irving tells the reader that Tom was a man of fortitude and so he "consoled himself for the loss of his property, with the loss of his wife,".  The final irony in the story is, when many years later, having signed with the devil and having made a fortune, Tom is accused of having made money from being so mean and stingy.  In his anger, Tom yells out that the devil should take him if he made any money that way.  Of course, the devil immediately appears and complies with Tom, taking him to hell.


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