In "The Devil and Tom Walker," how do Tom's house and carriage reflect his character?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Washington Irving's satire on the religious hypocrisy and the avarice of the Puritans has the main character Tom Walker enter into a contract with the 
Devil in return for a fortune. As part of the pact, Tom must agree to be either a slave trader or a usurer; Tom has qualms about selling slaves, so he agrees to be a usurer.  In time, Tom Walker's reputation becomes legendary,

...Tom was the universal friend of the needy, and acted like a "friend in need"; that is to say, he always exacted good pay and good security.

Tom was very miserly and "squeezed his customers." With his wealth, he built a huge house in order to show it off and let people know he was wealthy, but his "parsimony" would not allow him to furnish the house as it should have been. Again, to impress the town, Tom has a carriage, but he nearly starves the horses because he is so greedy. Further, he is so cheap that he does not grease the wheels of the carriage, so the carriage makes a terrible racket as it goes down the street

You would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.

Clearly, the house and carriage reflect the personality of Tom Walker, for he is proud of his wealth, but he is also too parsimonious to maintain the luxurious appearance of what he purchases and instead lets it deteriorate, just as his soul has deteriorated in his sin of greed.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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