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In "The Devil and Tom Walker," the devil plays hard to get by avoiding meeting with Tom once Tom has decided to sell his soul in exchange for Pirate Kidd's treasure. This is different from how the devil is usually characterized in Western thought and literature because he is usually thought to be happy to accept the services of anyone ready and willing to do evil. However, there is another respect in which this behavior fits very well with common characterizations of the devil as very cunning and manipulative. As noted by the narrator, the devil avoids Tom because "whatever people may think, he is not always to be had for calling for; he knows how to play his cards when pretty sure of his game." According to this passage, the devil is playing hard to get in order to lure Tom into his trap and also in order to ensure that he drives the best possible bargain in exchange for his treasure. As depicted by Washington Irving, the devil is cunning in how he goes about not only getting Tom to sell his soul for treasure, but also in how he convinces him to use the money to do evil afterwards by becoming a predatory lender.
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