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The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

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What is Irving's purpose for "The Devil and Tom Walker" and what three rhetorical devices does he use?

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Washington Irving was known to be a social satirist, and it is reasonable to claim that he wrote "The Devil and Tom Walker" as a critique of the increasing greed and capitalism of the late years of the industrial revolution, since the story was published in 1824. Many of the thriving mills of this period were concentrated in the northeast, and Irving recalls that this area had been taken away from Native Americans and claimed by the English, many of whom originally came to the colonies for religious reasons. Tom Walker's fall from Puritanism into greed and immorality is symbolic of the history of New England from colonial times till the time he wrote the story.

Irving uses the rhetorical device of allusion when he refers to the pirate Kidd and his treasure.

Irving uses the epithet "Old Scratch" to identify the devil.

Irving uses an analogy or metaphor to describe the economic climate of Tom Walker's town:

...the great speculating fever which breaks out every now and then in the country had raged to an alarming degree, and everybody was dreaming of making sudden fortunes from nothing.

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