In The Devil and Tom Walker, how does the physical setting of the story reflect the moral decay of the characters?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might want to respond to this question by refering to the description we are given of the residence where Tom and his stingy wife live. It is a key feature of this description that the setting parallels the kind of characters that dwell there. Consider the following description:

They lived in a forlorn-looking house that stood alone, and had an air of starvation. A few straggling savin trees, emblems of sterility, grew near to it; no smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveler stopped at its door.

Of course, the hardship and misery evoked by this description tells us a lot about the characters of Tom and his wife, in particular focusing on their sterility and their lack of ability to produce any children, which hints at some kind of rottenness at the core of both their marriage and themselves as individuals.

The way in which the setting mirrors the characters in this story is also noted explicitly when the figure of the devil explains the way in which trees are related to characters in their various stages of moral decay. Consider the following description:

He now looked around, and found most of the tall trees marked with the name of some great man of the colony, and all more or less scored by the ax.

Setting is therefore shown to be a crucial part in terms of the development of character in this excellent satire.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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