illustrated outline of a person's head with a red thumbprint on the forehead with an outline of the devil behind

The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

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Describe Tom Walker and his wife.

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Tom Walker and his wife are extremely greedy, insensitive people who are both willing to sell their souls to the devil in exchange for wealth. At the beginning of the short story, Tom's unhealthy marriage is described, and the narrator mentions that Tom and his wife continually hide their personal possessions from one another. They constantly argue, and some of their fights turn physical. Tom is portrayed as a selfish, unhappy person and his wife is described as a termagant.

One of the reasons Tom doesn't fear the devil is because he lives with such a miserable, aggressive wife. After Tom comes home from meeting with Old Scratch and informs his wife about the devil's proposition, she encourages him to sell his soul, which reveals her callous, selfish personality. She then takes it upon herself to strike a deal with the devil and attempts to exchange her soul for money, which does not work in her favor. Overall, Tom and his wife are depicted as miserly, greedy people, who enjoy arguing and live miserable lives.

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Tom Walker and his wife were both misers; "...they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other."  Mrs. Walker was a tall, ill-tempered woman who looked like she was angry and had a shrewish and nagging tongue.  She sometimes bore the bruises on her face her husband inflicted upon her.  When Tom told her about his meeting with the Devil and the offer the Devil made him to sell his soul for money, she decided if he wouldn't do it, then she would.  She set out to find the Devil and make a deal,  but came home saying that he would not come to terms with her.  She set out again the next evening, but never came back.  Clearly, she was very stubborn.  Tom did not miss his wife and seemed happy that she was gone, though he was upset that she'd taken their good candlesticks.  Tom does finally make a deal with the Devil proving that he is more concerned with money and worldly things than he is with anything else.  Tom was superstitious which is shown when he has his horse buried upsidedown because he believed in the possible truth of the myth that the world would be turned upsidedown on the last day.  Tom was also a liar.  Just before he's taken by the Devil, he swears he's made no money from a man to whom he lent money at a high rate of interest.

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