What traits does Tom Walker have and why does Mrs. Walker meet with such a nasty end?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Walker is a swarthy man, with soot on him as though he has been tending fires. He is fearless and confronts his termagant wife in physical battle, at times. Moreover, he does not even fear the devil. But, when he tells his wife about this encounter with the Devil, he has a bitter quarrel with her.

However Tom might have felt disposed to sell himself to the Devil, he was determined not to do so to oblige his wife; so he flatly refused, out of the mere spirit of contradiction....resolute not to be damned to please her.

But, he is greedy. So, he returns to the forest after she has disappeared with her apron full of valuables. When he reaches the forest, Tom discovers her apron in a tree, retrieves it, and finds wrapped in it his wife's heart and liver. "Old Scratch must have had a tough time of it" he thinks to himself. It is then that Tom Walker makes a deal with the devil so he can obtain the "promised treasure." The Devil insists that the money made from him be used in slavery or usury. Tom refuses to be any part of slavery, so he opens a shop and lends money at two percent. However, Tom begins to worry that the black man will come for his soul; so, he reads from a bible kept at his store, and keeps this bible readily available. This only works so long; one day, the devil came for Tom, placed him on a horse, and they two galloped away.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is nothing endearing in Tom Walker. He is cheap and gruff. He has no love for anyone-especially not his wife. Although, this is not a surprise, being that she is as unlikable as he is. The only thing that Tom Walker loves is money and angering his wife. He does not feel compassion, respect, restraint, or forgiveness.

His supposed religious awakening comes about only to prove to the Devil that he has changed-not by a spiritual awakening. He does not treat the church members any better than his wife.

His wife's death accomplished a the progression of the story line. First, because she wanted him to accept the deal, he did not take it. He enjoyed angering her. The plot was moved forward by giving her a nasty end. Had she not tried to make a deal herself and been killed for it, Tom Walker might never had taken the deal. It also shows the complete lack of emotion in him, as he does not feel anything when confronted with the gruesomeness of his wife's death.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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