The Devil and Tom Walker Questions and Answers
by Washington Irving

The Devil and Tom Walker book cover
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In "The Devil and Tom Walker", why does Tom turn down Old Scratch's first offer?

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dneshan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most important relationships that must be understood in “The Devil and Tom Walker” is the one that exists between Tom and his wife.  The reader should understand that Tom and his wife do not get along at all – they lie and cheat each other as best as they can for every dime that they can.  Both are cheap people and do not want to share anything with the other. 

When Tom is offered a job by Old Scratch in which he would make a great deal of money, he does not accept it because he knows that if he accepts the job, some of the money will end up going to his wife and he does not want this to happen. Therefore, he does not accept Old Scratch’s offer until he knows that his wife is dead.

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When he is walking in the woods with the devil in the first place, there is no indication that Tom refused the devil right then and there, but rather wanted to ponder it for a while, to see if he wanted to take him up on his offer.  The text states that when Old Scratch stated his terms, "They must have been very hard, for Tom required time to think of them, and he was not a man to stick at trifles where money was in view."  So, they were hard conditions, and Tom wanted to think about it.  He asks for proof of the devil's word, which the devil gives as a permanent finger-mark in Tom's forehead.

It is after he gets home and tells his wife about the incident that we get Tom's initial, flat-out no, and the reason for it was that "However Tom might have felt disposed to sell himself to the devil, he was determined not to do so to oblige his wife; so he flatly refused out of the mere spirit of contradiction."  He refuses, just because his wife wants him to say yes.  They have a contentious and bitter relationship, and she really, really wants the money the devil is offering.  So, just to spite her, Tom refuses.  Kind-of a funny and silly reason, but it fits their relationship.  Eventually, after his wife is out of the picture, he does accept the deal, and lives the rest of his life-and afterlife-with Old Scratch.

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jellybaybeh | Student

In "The Devil and Tom Walker" , Tom refused the offer because his wife was to excited about it that he wanted to do the opposite of what she wanted. He doesn't really get along with her, so he doesn't want to do what she wants.

astride | Student

what kind of people do you think Tom walker and his wife are?

explain using 3 examples from the reading.