How does Washington Irving use nature in "The Devil and Tom Walker" to show American Romanticism?

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Jessica Akcinar | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The American Romantics acknowledged the wonders of nature, and unlike the rationalists and Puritans, they were more inspired by nature than by the fear of God. They were especially fascinated by the supernatural, or that outside the natural world, and with the basic elements of human nature.

In "The Devil and Tom Walker," by having Tom meet the devil in a wooded swamp, Irving was able to combine both loves of the American Romantics, nature and the supernatural. He uses imagery, such as "gloomy pines," "dark, stagnant pools," and "half-drowned, half-rotting," to describe the wooded swamp where the devil appeared to Tom. It is in nature where the "evil spirit" resides and where Tom's soul is tested. The reader is able to witness human nature through the supernatural in an outdoor setting which is the epitome of American Romanticism.


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