Literary Analysis: The Devil & Tom Walker

1042 words - 4 pages

Can you imagine yourself locked up in a room with no doors? Similar to a room with no doors, there is no way out of hell if it was one's destiny. In the short story "The Devil & Tom Walker" by Washington Irving, the main character's fate is hell because of his wrong decisions in life, accepting a deal with the devil for earthly benefits. Irving reinforces his message about not making decisions that may damn your soul with the use of literary elements and figurative language. Wisely, Irving combines characterization, mood and point of view to perpetuate the theme of the story in the reader's mind.
The author continuously characterizes Tom in a way that makes the readers deride him and not want to follow the example of his like. For example, after Tom's wife takes all their valuables and tries to strike a bargain with the devil as Tom won't do it himself, Tom goes looking for her. The reader sees that he doesn't really care about her as much as he cares about the valuables: "He leaped with joy; for he recognized his wife's apron, and supposed it to contain the household valuables"(263). That shows that he is really greedy and ruthless; no one wants to follow someone portrayed like that. Furthermore, Tom had evidence that his wife was fighting with the devil when she tried to strike that bargain. The passage that provides his reaction has a satirical tone: "He shrugged his shoulders, and he looked at the signs of a fierce clapper clawing."Egad," said he to himself, "Old scratch must have had a tough time if it!" Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property, with the loss of his wife"(264). Contrasting words like fierce and prowess, which are serious words, with words like clapper clawing, egad and old scratch, Irving highlights the sarcasm in the passage. The satirical tone shows that he doesn't take things seriously and he didn't think that a similar fate could happen to him, too. Someone so ruthless is not a good role model to copy, and the message shines through because of the tone, or the author's attitude towards a character or a subject. In addition, when Mr.Walker becomes rich because of the usury he commits, he still has the miserly quality in him: "He built himself, as usual, a vast house, out of ostentation; but left the greater part of it unfinished and un furnished, out of parsimony"(266). The passage infers indirectly that he only think of looks and not inner contents, making him despised in the reader's eyes. Someone who only cares about appearances doesn't balance between worldly life and spiritual life. So Tom is his own antagonist and people would not probably mimic an antagonist in a story.
The antagonist in the story is described with a lonely mood. The mood allows the reader to interject himself in the story. With word choice, imagery and tone, the writer develops a sad mood. For example, When Irving describes Tom's house: "They lived in a forlorn looking house, that stood alone and had an air of starvation. A few...

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