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
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Identify examples of both internal and external development of character in "The Devil and Tom Walker."

Tom Walker's greed and ruthlessness are the main internal causes of his downfall. Tom feels no fear when he meets Old Scratch in the swamp because he has lived with his abusive wife for so long that he does not understand the meaning of fear anymore. Tom also does not feel pity for anyone; therefore, he is comfortable with making a deal with the devil. Although Tom becomes religious at the end of his life in an attempt to save himself from hell, it is too little too late as Old Scratch can still capture him and take him to hell.

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Towards the beginning of the story, Tom Walker is portrayed as an extremely greedy, ruthless individual, who has no fear because he lives with such a termagant wife. Tom does not even fear Old Scratch when he meets him in the swamp, and Tom willingly agrees to sell his soul...

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Towards the beginning of the story, Tom Walker is portrayed as an extremely greedy, ruthless individual, who has no fear because he lives with such a termagant wife. Tom does not even fear Old Scratch when he meets him in the swamp, and Tom willingly agrees to sell his soul to the devil. He does not worry about spending eternity in hell when he initially agrees to sell his soul and is comfortable with making the deal. Once Tom accrues his wealth by becoming an unscrupulous, coldhearted usurer, he experiences an internal change as he begins to think about eternity in hell. Irving writes that Tom grows "thoughtful" in his old age and begins attending church. Internally, Tom begins to regret his decision to sell his soul and becomes frightened about spending eternity in hell. Tom illustrates his external change by becoming a "violent churchgoer." Irving writes that Tom starts to attend church every Sunday, prays louder than anyone in the congregation, and becomes a notoriously zealous Christian. However, Tom's religious "enlightenment" is not genuine and he continues to destroy people's credit and foreclose on their mortgages. At the end of the story, Tom cannot prevent Old Scratch from snatching him away to take him to hell.

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Internally, the character of Tom Walker is developed through the narrator's description of his greed and how he is such a miserly character. Note how this is achieved in the second paragraph of the story:

He had a wife as miserly as himself; they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other. Whatever the woman could lay hands on she hid away: a hen could not cackle but she was on the alert to secure the new-laid egg. Her husband was continually prying about to detect her secret hoards, and many and fierce were the conflicts that took place about what ought to have been common property.

There is clearly exaggeration used here by Irving in the way that he presents Tom and his wife, as suggesting that they were so miserly and so much in competition that they even tried to hide eggs from each other is rather an extreme action. This however shows the internal development of Tom's character through presenting his greed and miserly nature, for if he is already so greedy, he will be prepared to do anything to gain wealth. His external development is shown through his conversation with the devil and how he is willing to risk and trade anything, even his soul, in order to have wealth and to use it in a way that will cheat others and add to his own riches.

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