Why does Jabez Stone make a deal with the Devil in "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benét?
Jabez Stone is described as being not "a bad man to start with," but rather "an unlucky man." He struggles with everything in life, from yielding healthy crops on his land to being able to feed his many children. After breaking a plowshare on a rock that he had "sworn hadn't been there yesterday," Stone decides he's "sick of the whole business." He proclaims his many afflictions are enough to make him want to sell his soul to the devil for two cents.
This simple statement summons the devil in disguise by the next day. A stranger dressed in dark clothes with very white teeth arrives in a fancy buggy; Stone knows exactly who this man is, despite assuring his family that he's simply a lawyer who has come to settle a legacy. Because he is a man of his word, Stone goes out behind the barn, pricks his finger, and signs the contract, completing the exchange of his soul for better luck.
We are told in the introduction to this story the reason why Jabez Stone was driven to making a deal with the Devil. Jabez Stone was so exasperated by his repeated bad luck that one day, after a particularly trying incident with a plowshare which he managed to break on a rock, with a whole host of other unfortunate incidents that had occurred at the same time, it all got too much and he shouted out:
"I vow it's enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil! And I would, too, for two cents!"
Thus it is that Jabez Stone, who is described as being not a bad man to start with, is driven by his bad luck to make his compact with the devil that Daniel Webster needs to rescue him from.