What does Old Scratch offer Tom, and what does he want in return?

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Old Scratch, or the black man, or the Devil, tells Tom that he can make him wealthy and allow him to become hugely successful as a money lender in the community.  He also asked Tom to be his go-to guy for slave trading, to which Tom says, "No!"  This leads us to believe that Tom is not a bad person, he is just like so many others in the world who don't want to work hard for a living--he wants things to come easily, and it is not very often that wealth and fortune just falls into someone's lap without the work that goes along with it.

At any rate, Tom is excited about his agreement with the Devil.  In return for wealth and long life, Tom has consented to give his soul and to come whenever the Devil shows up for him.

Tom does live a long time, and he has a lovely home.  As he gets older, he realizes what he has done and begins to look for ways to cheat the Devil out of the deal.  Tom begins reading the Bible and carrying it with him wherever he goes. 

The Devil shows up at Tom's house one morning when Tom didn't have his Bible with him and they ride off on the black horse never to be seen again.

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mrs-campbell's profile pic

mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The entire conversation between the devil and Tom Walker is not disclosed; rather, Washington Irving recalls the events as a distant storyteller relating hearsay.  But, he does give some details, and if we read closely, we can piece things together.  Tom and the devil converse for quite some time, and during their discussion, the devil lets Tom know of a huge sum of money buried by a lost pirate, that "he offered to place within Tom Walker's reach."  So at its minimum, the devil offers Tom huge sums of money that would solve all of his money woes, and his heart's desires.  However, the money is not free.  It came with "certain conditions" that Tom must really think over before deciding.  Later on in the story, it is hinted that the conditions were that Tom had to turn over his "soul" in the bargain.

After Tom's wife disappears, he decides to take the devil up on his offer, and spends his life with tons of money, but not much happiness.  At the end of his life, he regrets his actions and tries to stave off the agreement that he made, to no avail.  It is a classic story of greed and avarice, with the moral being that it never leads to happiness, but only to misery.  I hope those thoughts helped; good luck!

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Old Scratch offers Tom Walker Kidd the pirate's buried treasure in exchange for his soul. Irving writes that Tom never disclosed the "certain conditions" agreed upon during their meeting, but it is implied that Tom sold his soul for wealth. However, Tom does not immediately agree to give his soul to the devil and contemplates for some time about his decision. After Tom's wife disappears, he meets with the devil again to discuss the specific details of the deal. Again, Irving does not directly state that Tom agreed to sell his soul, but it is implied. Irving writes,

"There was one condition which need not be mentioned, being generally understood in all cases where the devil grants favors" (9).

The devil agrees to give Tom the buried treasure but insists that the money is used in his service. Initially, the devil wants Tom to use the money to "fit out a slave ship," but Tom refuses. However, Tom agrees to become a ruthless usurer. Tom ends up becoming a very wealthy man but eventually suffers the same fate as Crowninshield when the devil arrives to take him to hell. 

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