What agreement does Tom Walker ultimately make with the devil?

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sgregg1029's profile pic

Stephanie Gregg | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The Devil, or Old Scratch as he is called in the story, initially tries to persuade Tom to become a slave-trader.  Tom says that even the Devil himself could not persuade him to partake of such an enterprise, which is a reflection of the Romantic writer's awareness of and belief in democracy.  What Tom ultimately agrees to is to become a usurer, one who lends money at exhorbitant interest rates.  He trades his soul for a guarantee that he will be rich.  Once he gains his riches, he spends the rest of his life looking over his shoulder wondering when the Devil will come to collect his part of the debt.  He tries going to church as penance for what he has done, but inevitably, the Devil comes and collects on his deal and carries Tom away on horseback.

mperez-mugg21's profile pic

mperez-mugg21 | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The agreement between Tom Walker and the the devil in "The Devil and Tom Walker" has a variety of terms and conditions. According to the most basic terms of the deal, the devil promises to give Tom the buried treasure of Kidd the pirate and Tom agrees to the usual condition that the devil will one day claim his soul. The devil, however, is keen to ensure that the money he gives to Tom will continue to be used in his service after he gives it up. He first asks that Tom use the money to buy a ship and take up the slave trade, but Tom refuses this condition. Eventually they agree that Tom will set up a broker's shop in Boston and charge exorbitant rates. The devil asks that Tom charge 2 percent per month but Tom suggests that he would be happy to charge 4 percent. The devil also wants to make sure that Tom is prepared to "...extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, [and] drive the merchant to bankruptcy." These conditions are very much to Tom's liking and he heartily agrees.

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