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The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving
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What do Crowninshield and Deacon Peabody have in common in "The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving?

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In "The Devil and Tom Walker," both Crowninshield and Deacon Peabody have their names scored into trees in the forest where Tom Walker meets the Devil . Tom Walker is under the impression that this land belongs to Deacon Peabody, and asks the Devil what right he has...

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In "The Devil and Tom Walker," both Crowninshield and Deacon Peabody have their names scored into trees in the forest where Tom Walker meets the Devil. Tom Walker is under the impression that this land belongs to Deacon Peabody, and asks the Devil what right he has to cut down timber on the Deacon's land. The Devil counters that he has "the right of prior claim." The Devil says the Deacon will likely be damned if he continues to look at others' sins more than his own. This makes readers believe the Devil and the Deacon probably made a deal that gave him access to this land and use of its resources, which has likely made him wealthy. Crowninshield is also wealthy, and there are rumors that he also acquired his wealth by less-than-moral means: buccaneering.
 
All the trees in the forest look healthy on the outside but are "rotten at the core." The Deacon's tree specifically appears to be almost entirely hewn through to the point that the next strong wind would likely known it down. Many of the men who are considered great in the colony have their names on trees that look similar to Deacon Peabody's, and Crowninshield's appears to have just fallen down. This implies that Crowninshield, Deacon Peabody, and several other wealthy men in the colony acquired their wealth through deals with the Devil. 
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