The Devil and Tom Walker Questions and Answers
by Washington Irving

The Devil and Tom Walker book cover
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Explain the symbolism of the following: Tom Walker’s house, the swamp, darkness, and the Bible buried under the mortgage.

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Interestingly, there are actually two houses you might discuss in "The Devil and Tom Walker," though both largely symbolize much the same thing: they are outward expressions of the internal dysfunction of their resident(s). The first house, in which Tom and his wife live in the beginning of the story, is described as:

a forlorn-looking house that stood alone and had an air of starvation. A few straggling savin-trees, emblems of sterility, grew near it; no smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveller stopped at its door (Washington Irving)

Later, he builds a mansion, described in the following terms:

He built himself, as usual, a vast house, out of ostentation, but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished, out of parsimony.

In each case, the houses are described as exuding an atmosphere of misery, a description that reflects the misery of Tom Walker himself (and in the first house, the misery of both Tom and his wife, trapped in their dysfunctional marriage).

Meanwhile, the...

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