In "The Devil and Tom Walker" what is the relationship between Tom and his wife?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Walker and his wife behave very spitefully toward one another, and both are extremely greedy. Their arguments have turned physical, and the narrator makes no mention of love or caring between the two of them.

Tom's wife urges him to take the deal with the devil so that they will get Kidd's treasure.  She has no qualms about Tom spending eternity in Hell as a result. When Tom initially refuses, it is not because of the prospect of the devil owning his soul, but because he does not want to do as his wife wants--or share the fortune with her.

After Tom's wife disappears while trying to negotiate her own deal with the devil, Tom finds evidence of her murder:

"He looked and beheld a bundle tied in a check apron and hanging in the branches of the tree; with a great vulture perched hard by, as if keeping watch upon it. He leaped with joy, for he recognized his wife's apron, and supposed it to contain the household valuables. "Let us get hold of the property," said he, consolingly to himself, "and we will endeavor to do without the woman."

Tom is thrilled when he thinks he is going to get the valuables back--things his wife had tried to bribe the devil with--and thinks that it won't be very difficult to get along without her. He is unmoved by the sight of what is apparently her heart and liver wrapped in the apron.



mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom and his delightful wife don't have a very good relationship; in fact, it is downright contentious and hateful.  In the second paragraph of the story, we learn that they are such money-grubbers that they are always trying to steal each other's money, and that they "conspired to cheat each other," and "many and fierce were the conflicts" that they had.  They fought constantly, pretty much hated each other, and the atmosphere in their house was describes as "wordy warfare" and a "den of discord."

Their contention plays a major role in the story after Tom is propositioned by the Devil.  His wife wants him to accept the terms--so, she basically tells him to sell his soul to satan.  But, simply because she wants him to, he refuses.  He wants to--yes, he's greedy and wants the money--but because his wife wants the money too, he refuses, just to keep her from sharing the wealth.  They fight even more about this, and she goes off to try to get the deal for herself.  When Tom discovers her dead, he "leaped for joy."  Not the most kind reaction to discovering your spouse has died.  It just goes to show how much they really cared for each other, huh?  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," Tom Walker and his wife have a terrible, unhealthy relationship. Irving writes that Tom and his wife were a miserly couple, who would continually argue and physically fight. They would often conspire against each other and would cheat, lie, and steal from each other in their household. Whatever material goods Tom's wife attained, she would hide from her husband, and he would continually attempt to discover her secret stash, which would lead to fierce conflicts between them. Their home was considered a "den of discord," and people walking by would often hear Tom's wife fighting with her husband. After Old Scratch offers Tom a proposition that will make him rich, Tom informs his wife, who selfishly tells her husband that he should sell his soul. The reason Tom did not initially accept the devil's terms was to spite his wife. After Tom's wife disappears, Tom shows no concern for her well-being and is actually glad that she is gone. Overall, Tom and his wife had an unhealthy relationship, which consisted of fighting, plotting, and arguing.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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