Short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"

Categories: Short Story

In Washington Irving’s short story “The Devil and Tom Walker”, the author depicts the main character as a very stereotypical character with little individuality. Tom’s actions are easily predicted and his eventual downfall is used to illustrate the story’s moral.

Tom Walker is a very typical one-dimensional character. He is purely evil with not a bit of goodness. From the very beginning of the story, the reader is shown that he is a lying, cheating, conniving miser who cares for no one (not even his own wife) but himself.

He does his best to cheat his wife out of money and things that should be common property in a marriage. When his wife disappears (presumably she has been killed by the Devil), he is not concerned in the least for her well-being. Instead he joyfully snatches her apron down from a tree, supposing it to contain the household valuables. When Tom opens the apron and finds a heart and liver, he is not horrified as most people would be if they discovered that their spouse had been slain; rather, he is saddened that his property is lost and overjoyed that the Devil has done him the favor of getting rid of his wife.

Only the most purely evil person would feel this way.

Tom Walker’s actions are predictable because he’s a simple-minded greedy man. He’s very one-dimensional; he represents the greed that inherent to human nature, but he is totally consumed by it. The reader can assume that because Tom is so greedy, he will eventually sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for riches–and so he does.

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Also, because this type of story (man meets devil, man sells his soul to devil, man suffers dire consequences in the end) is quite typical, it is easy to predict the ending of the story (it seems that the Devil takes Tom to hell).

The moral of “The Devil and Tom Walker” is that greedy people will suffer in the end. Tom makes a deal with the Devil–his soul in return for wealth. In the end his riches become worthless and his property is burned to the ground. A black horse whisks Tom away to his death, and he presumably goes to Hell, since his soul now belongs to the Devil. Tom has paid the ultimate price for his greed–eternal suffering.

Washington Irving uses his predictable and stereotypical character Tom Walker to illustrate the moral of “The Devil and Tom Walker”. The moral is that greedy people will suffer in the end. In return for his miserly life and his deal with the Devil, Tom is dealt the worst fate imaginable–death and unremitting torment in Hell.

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Short story "The Devil and Tom Walker". (2016, Jun 22). Retrieved from

Short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"
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