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The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving
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Is Tom Walker better or worse than the other Puritans in Boston?

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"The Devil and Tom Walker" is a short story written by Washington Irving.  Although Tom Walker is the protagonist of the story, he embodies some less than desirable traits; greed is not only his most overwhelming personal flaw, but it is also his downfall.  The fact that,...

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"The Devil and Tom Walker" is a short story written by Washington Irving.  Although Tom Walker is the protagonist of the story, he embodies some less than desirable traits; greed is not only his most overwhelming personal flaw, but it is also his downfall.  The fact that, after he makes a deal with the devil, Tom Walker operates a usury business in Boston, which is a Puritanical society, only serves to highlight the fact that greed overtakes him.  He has no qualms about taking advantage of those who are more honest or less greedy than himself.

While Walker does, in his later years, attempt to embrace what he perceives to be the safety of the church, he does so only superficially.  The only reason he even pretends to accept the church's doctrines is because he is terrified of "Old Scratch" coming for him.

He prayed loudly and strenuously, as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs.  Indeed, one might always tell when he had sinned most during the week, by the clamor of his Sunday devotion.  The quiet Christians who had been modestly and steadfastly traveling Zionward, were struck with self-reproach at seeing themselves so suddenly outstripped in their career by this new-made convert.  Tom was as rigid in relion as in money matters...In a word, Tom's zeal became as notorious as his riches.

Tom Walker appeared to be better in his devotion to some elements of the Puritan life, yet he did not quit his work as a usurer or truly understand or accept Christianity.

 

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