How is "The Devil and Tom Walker" a good example of American romanticism?

Expert Answers

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

A love of the paranormal or supernatural is also a key element in Romanticism. 

In "The Devil and Tom Walker" there are several events which qualify as unexplainable beyond a shadow of a doubt or strange and eery.  One of these is the legend of the hidden pirate treasure and the other is the old Indian fort nearby where Tom and his wife live.  Both of these factors hold the people's interest and intrigue their imaginations based on the lure of treasure and the strange and unfamiliar Indian ceremonies and burial grounds.

Another is the disappearance of his wife who was never seen or heard from again.  The only thing found to explain her whereabouts was her apron hanging from a tree containing a heart and liver.

Of course, the Devil is also a source of intrigue.  In this story both Tom and his wife act out of greed to "strike a bargain" with the Devil and toy with the supernatural in doing so.  Tom evidently has a change of heart and attempts to go back on his deal.  When the Devil calls to collect his soul, Tom is mysteriously swept away toward the Indian burial grounds on a striking black horse and is never heard from again. 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom Walker addresses a typical setting and theme of American Romanticism. As the young nation matured, the woods became symbolic of individualism, passionate self-discovery that moved past the book learning of now crowded cities. The woods changed from a threatening place of danger to life, limb and soul (just ask the folks in Salem). Man was left in the woods surrounded by nature to investigate his own being and moral makeup. Here Tom Walker faces his insatiable greed and does not learn his lesson.

A typical theme of American Romanticism would involve man’s weakness for easy wealth and cruelty to others. Slavery, spousal disharmony, greed and sloth are portrayed in this cautionary tale. Romanticism moved us into a new mode of thought, but obviously the traditional American work ethic was to be preserved.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial