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Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker" tells of the age old story (originating with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust) of a man willing to sell his soul to the Devil for a better life. In Tom's case, a better life is made so through wealth.
Tom Walker can be seen as a sort of tragic hero. He possesses a hamartia (or a tragic flaw) illustrated by his greedy nature. Readers can feel sorry for him based upon his horrible relationship with his wife; his wife beats him ("his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words"). Readers may feel as though his death is not wholly deserved.
In one sense, readers could state that Tom Walker does deserve his fate (death). He did, in fact, make a pact with the devil, become a usurer (money lender who lends money at an exuberant rate), and uses the Bible as a shield.
On the other hand, Tom did refuse to become a slave trader and lived with an abusive wife for a very long time. Some readers may feel so sorry for him that his fate may seem a little harsh.
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