In "The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving, what would be a good general statement about Tom Walker?  

In "The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving, what would be a good general statement about Tom Walker?

 

 

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A good general statement about Tom would probably refer to his personality and demeanor, but a better statement would evaluate this as well as his role in the plot and his contribution to the story's message (as this is a clearly moralistic tale and Tom's nature is integral to that moral).

General things we can surmise about Tom is that he is miserly, lacking in taste, wholly consumed by greed, and basically an awful person. The one redeeming trait he was granted in the course of the story was his refusal to participate in slavery. 

The central morals of the story are similar or identical to those that appear in other Faustian tales; corruption and evil bring short-term rewards in exchange for eternal damnation. The main difference regarding Tom is that he is entirely unconcerned with knowledge, self-improvement or the betterment of the physical world, causes for which a Faustian bargain might make his situation more complex and morally interesting. Instead, this story is basically a revenge story; Tom is depicted as "getting what's coming to him." From this, we could make general statements about Tom like "you can judge a book by its cover," "financial success is no substitute for low character" or "the sinful will be punished in good time."

Regarding Tom himself, we could say that his corruption was in fact complete before his deal with Old Scratch; the disappearance of his wife and his gain of the treasure simply allowed him to bring the full depths of his depravity to their greatest articulation.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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