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The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving
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Why didn't Tom's religious efforts aid him when it came time for the devil to come for him?

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Toward the end of his life Tom Walker, the main character in Washington Irving's short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," becomes a terrible hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to have certain moral or religious beliefs yet performs acts which go against these professed beliefs. 

Tom Walker becomes a devoted church goer only at the end of his life when he begins to worry about the after life. He hopes to cheat the devil out of the bargain they made which made him a wealthy man. He thinks that going to church and reading the Bible will nullify his deal with "old scratch." 

We know he's a hypocrite, however, because at the same time he is professing to be a good Christian, he is still lending money at exorbitant rates to the economically unfortunate of Boston. Usury (lending money and charging interest) was prohibited by the church, but evidently Tom never sees the incongruity between his newfound faith and his usurious ways. In the final scene, just as he is foreclosing on a desperate man's mortgage, the devil comes to get him and the reader may assume that God saw him as the imposter he was and wouldn't save him from the "black woodsman." 

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