Do you think Tom could have escaped the consequences of his bargain with Old Scratch in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

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junebug614 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably not. Tom Walker willingly makes a deal with the Devil in exchange for his soul; however, as time progresses, the story states, "As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next."  In other words, Tom starts to regret this decision. He decides that he will be a "violent churchgoer. . . and prayed loudly and strenuously." He even begins carrying around a small Bible to protect him from the Devil upon his death.  The issue, really, though is that Tom never changes his heart or feelings: he still loves money more than anything else.  He still has no remorse for his actions or provides mercy to others. 

Near the end of the story, a man begs Tom Walker not to foreclose on a mortgage and tells Tom that his family will be ruined.  Tom Walker says, "The devil take me if I have made a farthing!" and so, of course, he is taken. If Tom had felt real remorse and left the deal with the Devil by giving away all the money he was gifted in the deal, it may have been possible; however, Tom is not willing to do that, so the consequences remain the same.  

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No. In my opinion, Tom could not have escaped the consequences of his bargain with Old Scratch. When Tom first meets the black man in the woods, the devil points to several trees in the swamp. The chopped-down tree that Tom is sitting on has the name of Crowninshield inscribed into the bark. Crowninshield was the name of a very wealthy man in town who made a vulgar display of his money. It was also rumored that Crowninshield acquired his riches through buccaneering. The devil then comments that Crowninshield's tree is "ready for burning." Although it is not directly stated, it is implied that Crowninshield also sold his soul to the devil for wealth. Similarly to Crowninshield, Tom eventually suffers the same consequences for making a deal with Old Scratch. No matter what Tom does to avoid eternal damnation, the devil owns his soul and comes for him at the end of the story.

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The Devil and Tom Walker

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