The Devil and Tom Walker Questions and Answers
by Washington Irving

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What seems to be the narrator’s attitude toward the events of The Devil and Tom Walker? What does Irving gain by using this type of narrator rather than having Tom relate the events?

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The narrator of "The Devil and Tom Walker" tells the story from the third person, but he is privy to Tom Walker's thoughts. It is through sentences like "'Let us get hold of the property,' said he, consolingly, to himself, 'and we will endeavor to do without the woman'" that the reader understands Tom's thought processes. But, it must be noted that the narrator is selective about which of Tom's thoughts that he shares with the reader; in this way, he shapes readers' perceptions about Tom Walker and offers his own tacit judgment.

The narrator is wise to human foibles and his attitude towards the story's events is a detached amusement. He does not build the reader's sympathy toward anyone's losses: neither Tom, his wife, nor the desperate people who come to Tom for financial relief. His tone suggests that greed and avarice are a choice that some people make because they neglect to take the long view of life.

Telling the story from Tom Walker's point of view would inhibit Irving's ability to...

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