In "The Devil and Tom Walker," how does Irving portray the dark side of both religion and wealth?

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Irving portrays the dark side of religion and wealth through the actions of the main character, Tom Walker, who uses both very selfishly. When Tom makes his deal with the Devil to give high interest loans and “extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, and drive the merchant to bankruptcy,” he seems...

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Irving portrays the dark side of religion and wealth through the actions of the main character, Tom Walker, who uses both very selfishly. When Tom makes his deal with the Devil to give high interest loans and “extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, and drive the merchant to bankruptcy,” he seems eager to take advantage of people for his own financial gain. Instead of using his position to help people in desperate times, he makes money off of them and their financial difficulties. The more wealthy he grows off of the backs of those in financial trouble, the more stingy he becomes, building a “vast house,” but leaving it “unfinished and unfurnished, out of parsimony,” or stinginess. In some circumstances, wealth can be used for good, but Walker seems to have no such interest in helping others. He uses it only to get ahead.

Eventually, Tom Walker starts to have anxiety about the things he has done, and this is where Irving shows the dark side of religion. He turns to religion superficially, going only for show, thinking this alone will save him from the pact he made with the Devil. Irving writes that “he prayed loudly and strenuously, as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs.” It seems as though Tom thinks that the more religious he appears outwardly, the more armor he will have against the Devil when he comes to collect his debts. Irving is not criticizing religion entirely, but the people like Tom Walker who try to take advantage of religion for their own selfish ends or use it ask a mask to cover their wrongdoing.

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