What moral the reader is supposed to learn from "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The moral in “The Devil in Tom Walker” is that if you sell your soul to the devil to get what you want, it will end up destroying you.

When we say “sell your soul” it is usually a metaphor.  In this story, it isn’t.  Tom Walker is not afraid of anything, so when he encounters the dark man in a stroll through the woods he is not unnerved.  He and the devil have a chat, and they discuss an old pirate treasure.  The devil assures Tom that it is real, and tells him where to find it.

Tom spends the rest of his days making himself very rich.  He is not a pillar of morality or an example to his fellow man.  He steals, swindles, and abuses his way through life.

When a poor man asks for leniency in his loan, Tom scoffs.  He has no interest in helping the man.  He does not care that the man his nothing and he has everything.  The man pleads with him, but Tom tells him that “charity begins at home” and he must look out for himself.

You have made so much money out of me," said the speculator.

Tom lost his patience and his piety-"The devil take me," said he, "if I have made a farthing!"

Ironically, the devil appears then and makes good on his bargain with Tom.  The devil takes him.  The lesson we learn is that good people end up with good lives, and bad people end up with bad ones.  In other words, what goes around comes around.  It’s like the concept of karma—what you send out comes back to you.

Tom was not a good person.  It never bothered him that he took advantage of others.  He had no qualms about taking advantage of the poor.  Readers should pause and consider their own choices.  You never know when one will come back to haunt you.

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