The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving

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The Devil and Tom Walker Characters

The main characters in "The Devil and Tom Walker" are Tom Walker, Tom's wife, Old Scratch, Captain Kidd, and Geoffrey Crayon.

  • Tom Walker is a miser who makes a deal with the devil.
  • Tom's wife is a similarly miserly woman, who dies while attempting to make a bargain with the devil.
  • Old Scratch is another name for the devil. He offers Tom the treasure buried by the pirate Captain Kidd.
  • Captain Kidd is a pirate rumored to have buried his treasure in the swamp outside of Boston.
  • Geoffrey Crayon is the narrator.

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Characters

Tom Walker

In Washington Irving's short story "The Devil and Tom Walker," Tom Walker is a meager, hard-minded, and miserly man. He lives with his wife and suffers through daily arguments with her. Tom and his wife are similar in their miserly attitudes. Tom shows an unapologetic and cold outlook on life. He is cynical, due to his dire financial circumstances and his bad relationship with his wife. This cynicism allows him to befriend the devil. He does not show fear when meeting the devil in the swamp, because nothing could be worse than his wife. (Read extended character analysis of Tom Walker.)

Old Scratch

The titular devil, or Old Scratch, fuels Tom Walker's greed and serves as the catalyst for the story's events. The devil represents moral sin and seeks to corrupt others. In this respect, he uses Tom Walker's ambition for his own purposes. The devil is described as a “great black man,” because his face is covered in soot and dirt. He wears a red belt, or sash, and carries a large axe upon his back. He also has black hair that sticks out in many directions and large red eyes. (Read extended character analysis of Old Scratch.)

Tom Walker’s Wife

Tom’s Walker's wife is an example of a person whose greed and apathy are rewarded with the punishment of death. Her cruel and meager nature lead to her punishment, just as Tom’s actions eventually do.

She is described as a termagant, or an overbearing abrasive person. She is heavy-handed, verbally and physically abusive, and just as miserly as Tom. She and Tom have a bad relationship, and Tom spites her when she asks him to comply with the devil, retrieve Kidd’s treasure, and make the both of them rich. When Tom refuses to get the treasure, his wife decides to visit the devil herself. This shows that Tom’s wife is as morally corrupt as he is. She doesn’t care about the possible spiritual toll and danger to her own life. She is simply driven by greed.

After her first visit to the devil, Tom’s wife comes home disappointed. She is unable to learn the whereabouts of the treasure. Instead, she has been asked to bring something valuable for the devil. Tom’s wife collects all the valuables in the house, mostly silverware, and brings it to the devil, who then kills her.

Although the text offers many renditions of her death, it is most likely that she put up a great fight against the devil before being killed. Around the tree where she likely died were many hoof prints and clumps of hair, showing signs of struggle. Tom finds her apron hanging in that same tree and, in a testament to his lack of love, only hopes to find the valuables which she had taken. He is disappointed to find her heart and her liver in the apron in the place of valuables. Instead of pitying or missing his wife, he feels bad for the devil, who he assumes “must have had a tough time of it!”

Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd, known as Kidd the Pirate, is said to have buried treasure in a grove of oaks above the swamp some miles from Boston, Massachusetts. The devil...

(The entire section is 876 words.)