What traits did the people of this time period value? How do you know?How does Tom selling his soul to Devil be against the morals of the time period?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story is set in New England in the early 1700's.  In this place, in this time period, a great many people were associated with the Puritan or Quaker religions.  Adhering to codes of religious behavior was an essential value to these people, who attended church often, for long period, and who had strict laws associated with behavior that contradicted religious ideals.  The best way to see this in the story is to look at Tom himself.  He is an anti-hero.  Although the protagonist of the story, Irving describes him in such a way to prevent the reader from admiring him.  He is identified as miserly, greedy, and naturally unpleasant.  He hates his own wife, and only refuses the Devil's offer because he doesn't want to make his wife happy.  He is pleased when she dies.  This isn't a nice guy.

And he gets his in the end.  He sells his soul to the Devil and it works against him.  He lives a life of riches, but not happiness.  He regrets his decision at the end, but only prays out of fear, not out of true piety.  And the Devil gets him and the fortune.  Clearly, readers are given the lesson that to behave in an immoral way and to turn your back on God is to guarantee a bad end.

By selling his soul, Tom did turn his back on God.  He was supposed to pray sincerely and work hard for his riches - instead, he cheats and works with God's enemy.  This is how he betrays the people's morals.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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