Washington Irving published "The Devil and Tom Walker" in 1824 as part of his short story collection, "Tales of a Traveller." The story has been compared to the classic story of Faust, a scholar who makes a deal with the devil. Read more about "The Devil and Tom Walker."
The Devil and Tom Walker - Characters:
Tom Walker: The protagonist of "The Devil and Tom Walker." Described as "a meagre miserly fellow."
Tom's wife: "Tom's wife was a tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband; and his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words."
Old Scratch: "It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper colour, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder."
The Devil and Tom Walker - Setting:
"A few miles from Boston, in Massachusetts, there is a deep inlet winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp, or morass. On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the water's edge, into a high ridge on which grow a few scattered oaks of great age and immense size."
The Devil and Tom Walker - Major Events:
Old Indian Fort
- Tom Walker meets Old Scratch: "Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man..."
- Old Scratch offers Tom Walker great sums of money in exchange for "certain conditions."
- Tom's wife confronts Old Scratch.
- Tom Walker agrees to the Old Scratch's "conditions"--with some obstinance.
- Tom Walker opens a broker's office in Boston.
The Devil and Tom Walker - Emblems / Symbols:
- The Indian Fort
- The Swamp
- The Walker House
- Bible (buried under mortgage papers)
The Devil and Tom Walker - Questions for Writing, Thinking & Discussing:
- What is important about the title?
- What are the conflicts in "The Devil and Tom Walker." What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional)?
- How does Irving reveal character in "The Devil and Tom Walker."
- Who was Faust (in literary history)? How could Tom Walker be said to have made a Faustian bargain?
- What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot and characters?
- Compare/Contrast Tom Walker with Scrooge (in "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens)
- Is Tom Walker consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character? How? Why?
- Do you find the characters likeable? Are the characters persons you would want to meet?
- Discuss some of the symbols in "The Devil and Tom Walker."
- Compare "The Devil and Tom Walker" with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
- Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why?
- What is the central/primary purpose of the story? Is the purpose important or meaningful?
- How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?
- What supernatural or surprising events are employed by Washington Irving? Are these happenings believable?