The Devil is portrayed in many ways and throughout many different types of literature, movies, and music. The most iconic image of the devil is a red beast with horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork in his hand. This famous image depicts an evil monster that is in the depths of hell where he rules over the other evil beings of the world. This is only one image of many that you can find in a vast amount of literature and media both past and present. In The Devil and Tom Walker, the devil is described as a black woodsman, human in form but with red eyes. Similarly in The Devil and Daniel Webster, the Devil is described as a “dark-dressed stranger,” who is soft spoken but has an evil smile.
In these descriptions you still get a sense of evil from the Devil but he is in human form. So what or who is the Devil? From early stories in Christianity, Lucifer commonly known as Satan or the Devil is originally an archangel created in the image of God. He is the highest form of an angel, but challenges God and is cast down to rule the pits of hell. Can someone created in the image of God as Christianity suggests be a dark stranger or a red beast? The Devil can be depicted in many ways, but what the Devil really represents is the existence greed and moral corruptness in society. Regardless of the imagery, the Devil plays a similar role throughout literature and media both past and present.
One of the earliest stories of a man making a pact with the Devil is a character named Faust, from an old German legend. Faust was a brilliant scholar but always wanted more knowledge. The Devil comes to him one night and promises him infinite wisdom for a certain amount of time after which Faust’s soul would be owned by the Devil. Faust readily agrees and signs a contract with the Devil. Faust lives with his infinite knowledge until the year comes when the Devil comes to collect his soul. Faust is then taken by the Devil and spends the rest of eternity in hell. This story maybe one of the original stories of the Devil making a deal with a man for his soul. The Devil knows and uses the man’s greatest desire to lure him into signing a contract to get his soul. Man is easily corruptible when promised his deepest desire and choses instant gratification without fully understanding or thinking of the repercussions.
In Anne Rice’s novel Memnoch the Devil, the Devil begins to stalk Lestate until one evening he appears to him and takes him on a voyage. Lestate is a very old and powerful Vampire, known to only look out himself and his own needs. The Devil takes Lestate to Heaven and Hell where he tells Lestate the story of the beginning of time when God created the world and human beings. Memnoch, or the Devil, spent a lot of time on Earth admiring God’s creation, but begins to notice the suffering and pain of human beings and the souls of deceased that are stuck in between Heaven and Earth. He describes God as uncaring of the evil in the world he created and begs God to do something to help the humans that are suffering on Earth and Sheol, which is the afterlife. Memnoch claims that he is not evil in fact he was an archangel created in God’s image, but because he questioned God several times about why he is letting humans suffer God gets angry.
God casts him out of Heaven to find all the lost souls on earth and Sheol that he thinks deserves to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, before Memnoch can return. This turns out to be a daunting task and he enlists Lestate to be his partner and adversary of God. This journey throws Lestate to question everything he has ever known about God and the Devil, sfor he has lived centuries and had dismissed such notion that Heaven and Hell exist. Lestate ends up running from the Devil and when he returns to Earth he steals a biblical artifact, Veronica’s Veil, he reveals the artifact to the world. In the end it is revealed that the Devil was only using Lestate by allowing him to return with an artifact that would renew faith in God and therefore limit the amount of souls sent to Hell. In this story the Devil is manipulative and cunning though he claims he is not evil. Although Lestate never made a deal with the Devil, the Devil won by using Lestate’s narcissism for his own purposes.
In the Phantom of the Opera, a popular Broadway show, one can view the Devil as the representation of the masked phantom in the opera house. The young understudy Christine hears a beautiful voice calling to her when she arrives at the opera house. She had heard stories of an “Angel of Music” who could give her a more powerful and beautiful voice and readily begins to sing with the Devil. A series of mysterious accidents forces the lead singer to lose her voice therefore losing the star role in the opera. Christine is the given then given the lead role after her voice improves drastically while practicing with the Devil. “The Angel of Music” takes Christine to the depths of the opera house tunnels against her will. Christine is in love with another man, who searches for her in the tunnels of the opera house.
The Devil captures Christine’s love and tells her he will kill him if she doesn’t stay with him. This story is similar to the short stories of The Devil and Tom Walker and The Devil and Daniel Webster, in that the characters make a deal with the Devil to improve some aspect of their lives but when the Devil wants to collect on their deal none of the characters want to go willingly. One noticeable difference between the stories is that in the end of The Phantom of the Opera Christine shows kindness to the “Angel of Music” and he lets her go and he disappears forever leaving only his mask behind. Overall mankind has shown a pattern of making deals with the devil for their desires to their own detriment.
From the short stories of, The Devil and Daniel Webster and The Devil and Tom Walker, to the legend of Faust, and the Phantom of the Opera musical you can see similarities in all the characters desiring something unattainable. The Devil then comes to them and promises to deliver their wishes for a small price, merely their souls for the rest of eternity. The Devil feeds on the lack of moral integrity and uses this to gain power over these characters souls. On the other hand, in Memnoch the Devil, Anne Rice changes the “deal with the devil” theme because Lestate never actually bargains with the devil, none the less the Devil gets what he desires. As you can see, literature and other mediums have adapted the story of making a pact with the Devil in many ways.
Faust. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 8, 2012, from Wikipeadia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust Rice, A. (1995). Memnoch the Devil. Knopf.
The Phantom of the Opera. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 8, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Phantom_of_the_Opera