What was Tom's reaction to the death of his wife in Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker?"

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Washington Irving's "The Devil and Tom Walker" speaks to the age old story of a person desiring something so much that he or she will "sell" his or her soul to the Devil. In the story, Tom initially refuses to accept the Devil's offer. After his wife hears about the treasure, she decides to go and make a deal with the Devil. Unfortunately, the Devil wants nothing to do with Tom's wife. Although readers never find out what actually happens to Tom's wife, the scene shows a very violent exchange. 

As Tom finds the scene of the interaction between the Devil and his wife, he "leaped with joy." Finding her abandoned apron, which should have contained many valuable items, Tom becomes saddened when he finds the apron empty of anything valuable. Only containing a heart and liver, Tom responds to his wife's death by simply stating that the Devil was most assuredly challenged by his wife. While saddened by the loss of the property, Tom finds that he would gladly give up the items since they disappeared with his wife. Tom is glad his wife is gone. 

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The Devil and Tom Walker is the kind of story that has a great moral lesson to it. The devil wants to make a deal with Tom Walker, but Tom isn't so sure. He goes home to talk it over with his wife. His wife is even more greedy than Tom is, and wants him to make the deal immediately. When Tom doesn't go and make the deal, Mrs. Walker decides to go and make the deal herself. When she doesn't return home, Tom goes to look for her.

When he finds her apron, Tom is overjoyed. He believes that his personal property will be found in the apron, but all he finds is his wife's heart and liver. We see Tom become sad, however we soon learn that the sadness is for the loss of his property and not the loss of his wife. He thinks that she put up a great fight and thinks the devil had a hard time getting her. He feels sorry for the devil having to deal with her. Tom is happy that his wife is gone and he doesn't have to deal with her anymore. He feels gratitude to the devil that he got rid of his wife for him, and this convinces him to make a deal with the devil.

The whole story deals with the realities of greed and people who care about money and their possessions more than they do people. It makes you think about what is really important in life.

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