The Devil and Tom Walker

Washington Irving
Washington Irving (17831859)
 DOB: April 3 New York
 World traveler—England, France, Sweden,
 One of his most famous short stories was
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
 Watch this clip from youtube
The Devil and Tom Walker**
Credited to Mrs. Sullivan
 Setting: New England in the early 1700s
 A narrator relates a story he has heard about
a local man’s dealings with the devil.
 The narrator never claims that the stories are
true, only that they are widely believed.
 According to local legend, a treasure is buried
in dark grove on an inlet outside of Boston.
Tom Walker**
 It is said that Kidd the Pirate left the treasure
there under a gigantic tree and the devil
himself “presided at the hiding of the money,
and took it under his guardianship.”
 Since the pirate Kidd was hanged, no one has
disturbed the treasure or challenged the
devil’s right to it.
Historical Viewpoints*
 At the time Washington Irving wrote “The
Devil and Tom Walker,” in 1824, the US was
a new and growing country. *
 Many writers published works that embodied
concepts of freedom, religious piety, and
independence that characterized the
country. (Poe, Hawthorne, Emerson etc.)*
Historical Viewpoint cont*
 Much of the literature of this period, like
the novels of James Fennimore Cooper,
were romantic tales of adventures of
common men, often concluding with
strong morals outlining Puritan ideals of
good and evil.
 “The Devil and Tom Walker,” in which Tom
Walker, a corrupt individual who gets his
come-uppance at the hands of the devil,
typifies the literature of this era.
Tom Walker Set Up
 Setting: Town in New England; early 1700s
 Characters: Tom Walker: miserly man who
succumbs to his own greed.
 Old Scratch: AKA the Devil.
 Tom’s Wife: Nameless hag of a woman
 View Ghost Rider clip
 Greed is one of the most important themes of “The
Devil and Tom Walker.”
 Hypocrisy is evident throughout.
 Moral Corruption: Though Tom Walker is presented as
an individual who has always been morally corrupt,
the action of “The Devil and Tom Walker” presents
how moral corruption breeds more moral corruption,
escalating to the greatest corruption of all, a pact with
the devil. **
Look for…
 Examples of foreshadowing
 Symbolism or archetypes
 Irving’s point
 Be able to compare and contrast the Ghost
Rider clip to the short story; how are Tom
Walker and Johnny Blaze different?
Setting: The Meeting
 P. 260: Old Scratch and Tom meet in an old
Indian fort; swamp—helps to set the mood.
 Decaying (like Tom), spooky, creepy
 Tom finds an Indian skull with a tomahawk
buried inside it—possibly foreshadows Tom’s
Characters: Old Scratch
 “half-clothed”; red sash (red color
 Dark in color—ashy (with soot): fire
imagery confirms Devil
 Red eyes evil
 Black miner, black woodsman, wild huntsman
Characters: Tom Walker
 Miserly stingy, tight-fisted
 Doesn’t take care of anything; will not spend
$$$$ on anything.
 Later, after he gets rich, he puts on
appearances house looks “rich” from the
outside, inside is completely falling apart.
Characters: Tom’s Wife
 No name: What does that say about her?
 Miserly, more tight-fisted than Tom.
 Reason that Tom accepts the deal with the
 Her death is foreshadowed by a vulture
(usually symbol of death)
 Why does the Devil kill her and not Tom?
Devil uncovers hypocrisy.
 Read “The right of a prior claim…witches.”
 How does the devil prove that Tom’s society is
made up of hypocrites?
 Religious persecution; persecution of Native
 Devil does not “harm” Tom simply gives
him a deal that he cannot refuse—won’t
Quick Activity
 After numbering off, 1-4, find evidence of
what you think Irving’s opinion is concerning
the following topics.
1: Slavery/slave trade
2. Religious hypocrites?
3. Expansion onto Native American lands?
4. Greed?
Themes: Greed and Hypocrisy
 Greed is emphasized a great deal in the first
half of the story Tom’s deal with Old
Scratch, Tom’s Wife’s demise etc.
 Hypocrisy is emphasized in the second half of
the story…mainly through Toms’ “conversion”
to “Christianity.”
Big Irony
 Tom makes his big “Well, if I ever made a
single dime, have the devil come and take
me now!”
Irving’s final point
 Why do you think Irving made it so all of
Tom’s possessions were
destroyed…specifically with so much fire

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