Washington Irving's tale “The Devil and Tom Walker” exhibits many characteristics of Romanticism. First, it is a story of the supernatural. Old Tom Walker and his wife encounter the strange black man who is really the devil more or less in disguise. While Mrs. Walker tries to...
Washington Irving's tale “The Devil and Tom Walker” exhibits many characteristics of Romanticism. First, it is a story of the supernatural. Old Tom Walker and his wife encounter the strange black man who is really the devil more or less in disguise. While Mrs. Walker tries to dicker with the devil and loses, Tom deals with him more shrewdly (so he thinks) and becomes a rich man. Tom's deal, however, eventually catches up with him, and he loses everything he has, including his soul. Indeed, Tom might think that he can best the devil, but the enemy wins in the end as Tom's supernatural wealth becomes his undoing, physically and spiritually.
The story is also focused on the individual and how personal choices affect the life of a man. This, too, is an element of Romanticism. Tom Walker is the protagonist of the story, and the narrator describes his character in detail. He is mean and miserly, cruel to everyone and everything, and as time goes on, he does not change for the better. In fact, his deal with the devil makes him even worse, for he now has money and sets himself up in business as a moneylender. Now he is in the position to hurt not just his wife and animals but many other people as well. And he does. Tom squeezes the money and the life right out of his clients. Yet at the same time, Tom grows anxious about the deal he made to get all that money, and he tries to go through the motions of religion to make himself feel better. Yet his religion is merely a show, for he is as nasty and greedy as ever. After reading the Bible, he will foreclose on a mortgage of some poor person without a second thought. We can't help but think when the devil carries Tom away that he has gotten exactly what he deserves.
Finally, “The Devil and Tom Walker” places a strong emphasis on emotions over reason, as does Romanticism. Tom Walker and his wife are both driven by greed. They want riches and fame, so they allow their passions to push them right into a deal with the devil. They do not stop to think about the consequences. This lack of reasoning gets Mrs. Walker killed. This lack of reasoning sets Tom up in a lucrative business, but it also makes him more and more cold and merciless. He is not thinking straight, and his grasping passion drives him right into the devil's arms in the end, for he has failed to use his common sense and think about what happens to people when they give themselves to evil.