In "The Devil and Tom Walker", what inferences can you make about how each of the following images supports characterization and mood?
- the trees and the swamp (lines 40-47)
- the hewn trees (lines 96-102)
- Tom's new house (lines 270-272)
- Tom as a churchgoer (lines 279-289)
Characterization can be defined as the process of "fleshing out" a character by giving details about its thoughts, behaviors, physical qualities, motivations, and other features which contribute to the illusion that the character is real.
Mood is the feeling or other emotional sense that the reader is intended to have based on certain details.
- The details describing the swamp are establishing a "gloomy" mood - the trees are specifically described as gloomy, and this is substantiated by the swamp being dark at midday. The swamp is also characterized as treacherous, in that is "betrays" the traveler into puddles of mud.
- The hewn trees are meant to represent individuals, and their presence may serve both to set the mood as one of foreboding (in that their fate is tied to that of the tree, or perhaps vice versa - the "magic" at work here is unclear) and the condition of the trees serves to characterize the people they represent - all variously scored by an axe, suggesting the impact of their sins, as well as trees that are rotting (corrupted) and fallen (dead).
- Tom's new house characterizes him as a superficial braggart, yet simultaneously miserly - he somehow manages to combine some of the worst traits possible. This is probably intended to establish a mood of disgust - not only are we displeased by Tom's showboating, but by the blatant underlying selfishness of his motivations.
- Tom's churchgoing phase further characterizes him as short-sighted and selfish. The mood here is probably one of annoyance - both at Tom's sudden conversion to a man of faith, and at his clear misunderstanding of how faith works, and that it is not about making a show of himself.