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What happens to Tom's wife in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

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sfwb | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 21, 2012 at 3:57 AM via web

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What happens to Tom's wife in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:37 AM (Answer #1)

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After hearing Tom's report of the deal he had been offered by the devil, whereby he could basically "sell his soul" in return for great wealth (the gold buried by Kidd the pirate), Tom's wife goes into the forest to make her own deal since Tom refuses to do so.  She is never heard from again.

Various reports in town offer differing theories for what happened to her: some say she lost her way and sank in the slough; some say she ran away with the household valuables; and others say she was misled by "a great black man, with an ax on his shoulder" into a quagmire, where her hat was later found.  Some said they had seen such a man late at night leaving the sawmp, "carrying a bundle tied in a check apron, with an air of surly triumph."

This last report seems to be confirmed by what Tom finds upon entering the forest to look for his lost wife - or rather, his lost property.  After much searching and calling of her name, his attention is drawn to some noisy crows in a cypress tree.  When he looks up, he sees "a bundle tied in a check apron," and he immediately recognizes his wife's apron.  However, when he takes it down and unties it, he does not find his household valuables; instead, he finds "nothing but a heart and liver tied up in it!"

The reader is left to assume that his wife has been killed - that her deal-making with the devil did not work out.  Unfortunately, Tom does not take heed of this warning.  Instead of feeling sorrow at his wife's demise, he feels liberated, and therefore goes on to make his own deal with the devil, happy that this time any wealth he gains will not have to be shared with his wife.  His ill-gotten wealth, however, only leads to a life of regret and a miserable end.

 

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