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Why does Irving use humor in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?I'm writing an essay on the...

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jackidarling | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:58 AM via web

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Why does Irving use humor in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

I'm writing an essay on the humor used in this story, and I am stuck on the conclusion. I've explained the different types of humor he used in the other paragraphs, but I can't figure out how to end my essay if I don't know why he used humor.

Help please! :)

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:27 AM (Answer #1)

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Like most of Irving's stories, "The Devil and Tom Walker" is a satire; so because the author is mocking Puritan beliefs and superstitions, hypocritical church members, greedy husbands and wives, etc., humor is a necessity to assure that the audience knows that the piece is satirical.  Irving's exaggeration of the level of greed and dislike in the Walker marriage is humorous, but it also illuminates problems that Irving saw in marriages and the consequences of greed.

While it is also amusing that Walker is so concerned about the devil coming for his soul after he becomes a usurer that he carries around a Bible and wants his horse buried upside down, Irving uses his humor in this section of the story to point out the hypocrisies in people who are openly religious but inwardly immoral.

In short, the story's humor advances Irving's satirical tone and themes.

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