“The Devil and Tom Walker”
Washington Irving
2. Describe the settings of the story.
 Tom’s Home:
 “…a forlorn looking house that stood
alone and had an air of starvation.”
 Lifeless; lacking qualities of warmth
 “…a miserable horse whose limbs were
as articulate as the bars of a gridiron…”
 Tom and his wife are neglectful, only
concerned with selves
2. Describe the settings of the story.
 Indian Fort:
 “It was a dreary memento of the fierce
struggle that had taken place in this last
foothold of the Indian warriors” (231)
 Invokes the memory of death and disaster;
represents Hell
 “Anyone but [Tom] would have felt
unwilling to linger in this lonely,
melancholy place…” (231)
 Most people, with the exception of Tom,
fear the fort
2. Describe the settings of the story.
 Boston
 Boston = Corruption
 The city is riddled with mishaps involving
materialism/capitalism ($$$)
 “In a word, the great speculating fever…
had raged to an alarming degree, and
everybody was dreaming of making sudden
fortunes for nothing.” (236)
3. Describe the devil. How does he differ
from our traditional perception?
 Devil’s characteristics:
 “Neither Negro nor Indian”
 “…dressed in a rude half-Indian garb”
 “his face… begrimed with soot, as if he
had been accustomed to toil among fires
and forges.”
 “…had a shock of coarse black hair… and
bore an ax on his shoulder”
 “Old Scratch” appears more humanlike than supernatural.
4. Describe the trees that surround the
Indian fort. What do they symbolize?
 The trees are marked with the name
of a wealthy proprietor, each of which
has made a deal with the devil
 The Devil has hewn through the trees
marked with a dead man’s name
 The trees symbolize moral decay
 “…fair and flourishing” on the outside
and yet “rotten at the core.” (231)
5. What is the devil’s signature?
 The Devil’s signature is a thumbprint
to Tom’s forehead
 “When Tom reached home, he found the
black print of a finger, burnt, as it were,
into his forehead, which nothing could
obliterate.” (233)
6. Why doesn’t Tom accept the devil’s
offer immediately?
 Tom is not prone to letting his wife in
on secrets involving money
 “…he was determined not to do so to
oblige his wife; so he flatly refused out of
the mere spirit of contradiction.” (233)
 “…but the more she talked, the more
resolute was Tom not to be damned to
please her.”
7. What does Tom’s wife do after he talks
to her about the devil’s offer?
 Tom’s wife meets in secret with the
Devil but refuses to let Tom in on the
deal she has made with him
 “At length she was determined to drive
the bargain on her own account.” (233)
 She carries off in her apron every
“portable article of value” but is never
seen again
8. Ultimately, what happens to Tom’s
 Although the details of her demise are
unclear, we are led to believe that she is
killed by the Devil in order to entice Tom to
make the deal
 Tom finds only her liver and heart wrapped
up in her apron; he does not seem
saddened by her death
 “He even felt something like gratitude towards
the black woodsman, who, he considered, had
done him a kindness.” (235)
9. What does the Devil want Tom to do for
the money? Why won’t he do it? What
does he finally agree to do?
 The Devil wants Tom to deal in “black traffic”
and become a slave trader
 Tom refuses out of good conscience; there are
few things Tom won’t do for money and this is
one of those things
 This is telling of Washington Irving’s
feelings about slavery.
 Tom agrees, instead, to become “usurer” (loan
 Loan out Kidd’s money at a high rate in
order to make more $$$
11. What the following symbolize?
Old Scratch = Temptation
Tom Walker = Greed &
Boston = Corruption
The Bible = Protection
The Indian fort = Hell
13. What are possible themes for this
story? (theme = universal idea)
Domestic dispute
One of the characteristics of Romantic literature is
the past. Irving uses legend and folklore as
American past/history. Complete the following chart
with examples from the story.
Characteristics of Folk
Long, local history
Example from “The Devil and Tom Walker”
The legend of Kidd the Pirate’s treasure
Relate unusual or unlikely
Meeting the Devil in the forest ; making a
compact with a supernatural being
Involve stereotypical or
stock characters
Devil = trickster
Tom = Miser
Wife = termagant
Teach a lesson or express
a general truth about life
Taking short cuts in life will lead you down the
wrong path
May have an allegorical
American capitalist greed
An allegory is defined as a representation of an
abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or
material forms or a symbolic narrative. Look at “The
Devil and Tom Walker” as an allegory – (for the
American economic system?)
What might each of these represent? (Look back
at the symbolism question…it will help)
 Old Scratch  Federal Capitalist enterprise
 Murky woods  uncertain/unknown curiosities
--the stock market??
 Trees  pillars of economic miscues (decay on
the inside/”beauty” on the outside)
 Tom Walker  the lenders
 Tom’s short cut through the woods 
“ill-chosen” short cuts to wealth; wrong path
Satire is defined as the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or
the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly,
etc. Is Irving satirizing an individual, a society, or all of
humankind? Explain, using examples from the text. At
what foibles does he level his attack?
 Irving attacks man’s insatiable
hunger for wealth and he exploits the
readiness of mankind to compromise
his moral integrity.
 Weaknesses
Lack of work ethic
Imperialist nature
Dramatic irony is a literary device whereby a character
inadvertently speaks the truth, foreshadowing tragic events
of which he is unaware. Find the sentence in the
conclusion of the tale where Tom makes this kind of ironic
 “The Devil take me…” (230)
“The Devil and Tom Walker”

“The Devil and Tom Walker” Washington Irving