In "The Devil and Tom Walker," the author says that Tom built a "vast house, out of ostentaion; but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished, out of parsimony" (lines 270-272). What...

In "The Devil and Tom Walker," the author says that Tom built a "vast house, out of ostentaion; but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished, out of parsimony" (lines 270-272). What do these lines say about Tom's character?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This quote is incredibly ironic and it emphasises Tom's principle characteristic of being mean and miserly, which is as true now for him even when he has incredible wealth as it was true for him in poverty. Note how the text continues after mentioning the new house that Tom builds for himself:

He even set up a carriage in the fullness of his vain glory, though he nearly starved the horses which drew it; and as the ungreased wheels groaned and screeched on the axle trees, you would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.

This is typical of Tom's extreme reluctance to spend any money. He is depicted as being so in love with money and so unwilling to let any slip out of his fingers, that even when he has so much, he refuses to use it to finish and furnish his house, or to feed the horses that pull his carriage. This is of course Irving exaggerating Tom's character somewhat, as clearly the picture that Irving paints of Tom is ridiculous in the extreme. It serves to highlight Tom's major failing of being a miser and the extent to which that love money takes him.

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