illustrated outline of a person's head with a red thumbprint on the forehead with an outline of the devil behind

The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving
Start Free Trial

As seen in Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker," explain why Tom does not (at first) make a bargain with the devil. 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker" is a tale filled with moral lessons. Irving leaves readers well versed on the consequences, albeit fictional consequences, of greed, hypocrisy, and moral corruption. That said, Tom Walker does show that he is concerned about making a deal with "Old Scratch" without giving it much thought. 

Upon hearing that the Devil has "great sums of money," which belonged to Kid the Pirate, Tom Walker's heart most assuredly began to race. As a miser, Tom refuses to spend money and hoards every bit of it that he can. (Unfortunately, his wife is a miser as well. She even steals from her husband and hides his money.) For Tom, the promise of more money would not seem to be an idea which would require much thought. Yet, Tom does not immediately make a deal with the Devil. 

While the text is not explicit regarding Tom's failure to make an immediate deal with the Devil, the text does state that the "conditions" under which he would get the money must have been "must have been very hard, for he required time to think of them, and he was not a man to stick at trifles where money was in view." 

After returning home, Tom shared the news of the gold with his wife. Immediately, she wishes him to make the deal with the Devil. Bitter and cynical, Tom "flatly refused out of the mere spirit of contradiction," so his wife would not get her way. All said and done, and after careful consideration, Tom eventually makes the deal with the Devil. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team