Most people would have been afraid to meet the devil in the woods. What two reasons are given for why Tom wasn't afraid in "The Devil and Tom Walker?"

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom is stubborn, not easily intimidated, and has a bossy wife, so he does not fear the Devil.

Most people would be nervous walking through woods that people say are haunted.  Tom Walker is not most people.  He does not put any stock in old stories.  He is a singular fellow for sure.  The author also gives us three good reasons why, when he meets the Devil, Tom Walker is not going to be afraid of him. 

One would think that to meet with such a singular personage in this wild lonely place, would have shaken any man's nerves: but Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil.

When he says that he is “hard-minded,” he is basically saying that he is stubborn.  He does not give up easily.  Persistence is a useful trait when dealing with the devil.  It can help you not back down, and get your way.  It can make you very rich.  There is evidence of Tom’s stubbornness in the fact that he asks the Devil for proof, instead of running away.

"What proof have I that all you have been telling me is true?" said Tom.

"There is my signature," said the black man, pressing his finger on Tom's forehead. So saying, he turned off among the thickets of the swamp, and seemed, as Tom said, to go down, down, down, into the earth …

Next, it says that Tom was “not easily daunted.”  That means he does not get intimidated, frightened, or scared easily.  The fact that he is willing to stop and chat with the Devil is kind of proof of that.  Consider Tom’s reaction to the death of his wife.

Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property with the loss of his wife; for he was a man of fortitude. He even felt something like gratitude towards the black woodsman, who he considered had done him a kindness.

Yikes!  There is a man not easily daunted.  Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.  No wonder Tom was able to be successful.  Here is a man who lets nothing stop him.

Of course, Tom’s wife was used as reason number three of why he is not scared.  When it says that he had lived with a “termagant wife” for a long time, basically it means that he had an overbearing wife who was scarier than the Devil.  Ouch.  And she was.  Look what she did!

Being of the same fearless temper as her husband, she set off for the old Indian fort towards the close of a summer's day. … When she came back she was reserved and sullen in her replies. She spoke something of a black man whom she had met about twilight, hewing at the root of a tall tree.

She apparently is just as fearless and impossible to intimidate as him.  Unfortunately, she is a little easier to kill.

Ah, the spats of husbands and wives!  It looks like Tom came out on top in this one.  He made a deal with the Devil, literally, and was successful for awhile.  It was his personally that allowed him to not fear the Devil.  As these things go though, when he got older he eventually changed his mind, and wished he hadn't.  You can't change the past though.  Eventually, the Devil came to collect.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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