What parallels are there between this story and the Faust legend?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are indeed close parallels between the Faust legend and "The Devil and Tom Walker." In the original legend, Faust sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and worldly pleasure. In Washington Irving's variant of the old story, Tom Walker appears to sell his soul to the Devil—though it isn't spelled out explicitly—in exchange for a life of wealth and comfort.

In both cases, the men who make the ultimate devil's bargain come to regret their foolish decision. They're both forced to realize that you should always be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it. Faust constantly worries about the state of his soul in the next world; he believes that he's in serious danger of going to hell. Yet still he doesn't repent, burying himself deeper and deeper into the mire of sin. As he gets older, Tom Walker also starts to think about what fate lies in store for him in the next world. Although he's amassed a huge fortune, he knows that he can't take with him, and will avail him nothing in the hereafter:

As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial