The narrator’s attitude toward the events of the story is almost one of detachment. Although the narrator relates the story to us, it is not evident how he feels about what is happening. He is certainly not sympathetic to Tom, nor is he gleeful at his fate. Rather, it is as though the narrator finds the whole situation vaguely amusing, as though he has seen humans make choices such as Tom and his wife make, and he is not the least bit surprised at the outcome of these decisions.
The narrator’s attitude is a reflection of the changing attitudes toward wealth and material goods at that time. Puritanism was diminishing in popularity, and people were becoming more comfortable wanting and owning goods and possessions. The sin and guilt associated with wealth was still lingering, though it was not as heavy as it had been.
The narrator’s distant, unsurprised attitude toward the decisions Tom and his wife make, what they are willing to risk and give up for things, demonstrates Irving’s thoughtful approach to the changing attitude. He illustrates the nuances involved with the changing times, the battle between “good” and “evil” as well as wealth and selflessness. If the narrator behaved more strongly in favor of or against Tom, we would not be able to think about the changing times as clearly.