What details from "The Devil and Tom Walker" refer to the devil's dealings in America?

Expert Answers
cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker," there are several mentions of the devil's influence or presence in America's "goings on."  When he and Tom Walker initially meet in the woods, the devil explains that

...Since the red men have been exterminated by you white savages, I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of Quakers and Anabaptists; I am the great patron and prompter of slave dealers, andn the grandmaster of the Salem witches.

In this way, the devil admits his involvement in well-known events such as the Salem witch trials.

Later in the story, the reader is told that the devil is anxious to recruit Walker as a usurer because the devil considers them to be his "{special} people."  In the economy of the time, working as a usurer was especially lucrative, since

...money was particularly scarce.  It was a time of paper credit.  The country had been deluged with government bills; the famous Land bank had been established; there had been a rage for speculating; the people had run mad with schemes for new settlements, for building cities in the wilderness; land jobbers went about with maps of grants, and townships, and El Dorados, lying nobody knew where, but which everybody was ready to purchase.  In a word, the great speculating fever which breaks out every now and then in the country, had raged to an alarming degree, and everybody was dreaming of making sudden fortunes from nothing.  As usual, the fever had subsided; the dream had gone off, and the imaginary fortunes with it; the patients were left in doleful plight, and the whole country resounded with the consequent cry of "hard times."

Because of this, the fact that the devil played a large role in American dealings is clear.


Read the study guide:
The Devil and Tom Walker

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question