illustrated outline of a person's head with a red thumbprint on the forehead with an outline of the devil behind

The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

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What are the conflicts in "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

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There appear to be any number of different conflicts that occur in this masterful short story by Washington Irving. These are mainly external conflicts, that is conflicts that are between people rather than internal conflicts. Note how the conflict between Tom Walker and his wife is characterised:

They were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other.

The element of satire and exaggeration here renders this description of their marriage as being hilarious, and also gives us a certain sense of satisfaction at the fate of Tom Walker's wife and Tom himself. However, the conflict is not limited to Tom and his miserly wife. Indeed, both Tom and his wife have a conflict with the Devil, or "Old Scratch," though the conflict between his wife and the devil ends up badly for the wife. Likewise, Tom's practice of usury leads him into conflict with his fellow men. Lastly, of course, Tom's conflict with the Devil is concluded when he is snatched and ridden away with the Devil on horseback, never to be seen again.

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