Nagging Reminders for Moral Instruction from the Van Winkles, Walkers

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August 14, 2019


“The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving is a story about Tom Walker, an extremely greedy man, who would rather sell his soul to the devil, or Old Scratch, in order to gain the treasures hidden by a late pirate, than be poor.

His wife who’s equally as greedy, if not more, urges Tom to take the devil up on his offer and sell his own soul after hearing the story of Tom meeting Old Scratch. In spite of his wife, with whom he does not get along, Tom declines the offer of selling his soul in exchange for winning Pirate Kidd’s hidden treasure.

Caused by Tom declining the offer in spite of his wife, she ventures out to strike up a deal with the devil herself. After returning with silver to trade with the devil for a second time, she never returns to Tom. He feels grateful to the devil for ridding him of his horrible, mean wife.

The devil and Tom make a new deal with many more conditions for Tom, like also becoming a slave trader. The story goes on and Tom later feels guilty about being so greedy that he sold his very own soul in order to gain wealth. It is thought, at the end of the story, that he, after being taken away by the devil, haunts Boston.

Tom Walker’s wife reminds me of the wife of Rip Van Winkle, Dame Van Winkle. As I read the beginning of this story, I saw many similarities between the two wives in Washington Irving’s stories.

I began to wonder why Irving depicts women this way in several of his stories. As described in the short story, “Tom’s wife was a tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband.”

Like in “Rip Van Winkle,” once the two men are free from their wives and they have died, they feel a great sense of relief. As a teacher to kids, it may be wise to pair the two stories and teach them together. The stories read similarly and had similar themes, in relation to the women characters.

Storytelling as moral instruction is a common theme the two stories share. “Rip Van Winkle” is thought sometimes to be a warning to people to stay away from alcohol, as it can have negative effects in one’s life, as in the story. In “The Devil and Tom Walker,” the story could be used as a cautionary tale. The story can be seen as a warning to steer clear of the devil and his effects on people’s lives.

Washington Irving, one of the first American writers to write about fantasy of any sort, writes with the same overall eerie tone in both short stories. As the reader, you can just feel something supernatural will happen at some point in the story. While the relationships with their wives were similar in some ways, they also were different, but the nagging wife character is apparent in both short stories by Irving. Perhaps this is the way Irving felt about women and just so happened so have an interesting way of portraying his views.

Grace Albritton is a special guest blogger this week. In Spring 2019, Grace wrote this blog specifically for the Washington Irving Society page. She submitted the blog as an optional assignment for Dr. Tracy Hoffman’s 2304 American Literature class at Baylor University. This was not a formal paper assignment, but a casual blog response to the reading. Please feel free to leave comments about Grace’s response here on the website.





Published in: on August 14, 2019 at 2:12 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Dear Admin! This article is so informative and you have so much knowledge about this topic. kindly write more about Urdu Moral Stories For Kids , Urdu Moral Stories For Kids , Urdu Moral Stories For Kids and Urdu Moral Stories For Kids


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