Near the end of the story, Irving satirizes (ridicules) certain religious people.
-What kind of churchgoer is represented by Tom in the following excerpt?
-Highlight some words and phrases which best represent Tom's religion.
-Make sure to circle the oxymoron, which places two seemingly opposite words side by side.
As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next. He thought with regret on the bargain he made made with his black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions. He became, therefore, all of a sudden a violent church goer. He played loudly and strenuously as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs. Indeed, one might always tell when he had sinned most during the week, by the clamour of his Sunday devotion. The quiet Christians who had been modestly and steadfastly travelling Zionward, were struck with self reproach at seeing themselves so suddenly outstripped in their career by this new-made convert.
- Tom is presented as what some might call a "Sunday Christian" - a person who lives sinfully for much of the week but puts on the appearance of a devout and humble person for the sake of going to church, treating the services as more of an obligation than a fundamental component of their lives. Tom also seems to believe that virtue can be quantified; meaning, it can be measured in physical terms, such as the volume of his voice or the emotion with which he speaks. Tom is afraid, now that he is old, and thinks he can make up for his lifelong lack of morality by going to church more zealously than the average person, as if the enthusiasm that he shows will compensate for his poor habits. This is probably quite irritating to everyone else, because it's clear that Tom has not only fundamentally misunderstood the way a Christian life should be conducted, but that he is simply showing another side of his usual ways, thinking that church is about himself.
- Three words which describe Tom's religion are "loudly", "strenuously" and "clamour", indicating that Tom's religion is all about making a show of things and drawing attention to himself.
- The oxymoron is "violent churchgoer" - we wouldn't expect a churchgoer to be violent, although in this case "violent" is being used as a metaphor for the energy and tone with which Tom conducts himself.