How does the author communicate his opinion of the Puritan attitude through Tom Walker's statements.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," Mark Twain incorporates many motifs from various folk tales.  One of these is the avarice and sanctimonious hypocrisy of the Puritans in Boston where Tom Walker sets up his countinghouse. Irving alludes to the time of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1730 through 1741 when the Puritans went through "the great speculating fever which breaks out every now and then."

Tom establishes himself during this time in which many were "dreaming of making sudden fortunes." Throngs of Puritans enter his countinghouse--"the dreaming land jobber, the thriftless tradesman, the merchant with cracked credit." But, after having made his fortunes on them, Tom worries about the afterlife. "He became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent churchgoer." In a satiric tone, Irving describes Walker's religious fervour as disturbing the sanctimonious, who worry that he will "outstrip" them in their careers as pillars of their church.  Ironically, too, Tom is "as rigid in religious as in money matters" and his zeal becomes renowned.  Still, he worries about the Devil, so he carries a small Bible; he even has a Bible that he reads in his countinghouse:

[he] would frequently be found reading it...and would lay his green spectacles in the book, to mark the place, while he turned round to drive some usurious bargain.

Irving's satirical humor is certainly evidenced in this and other passages about the greedy Puritans whose hypocrisy is displayed in their ostentatious behavior in church.

 

 

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