What’s on Your Plate? Washington Irving’s “Tom Walker” Gives Us Food for Thought

white ceramic plate

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BY LIZZIE DARWIN

August 28, 2019

After reading about a particular situation in “The Devil and Tom Walker,” I am reminded of something from my childhood.

Out to dinner with my family, I came from a long day of cheerleading practice and was starving. I cleaned my plate within five minutes. My brother, on the other hand, was sick and missed football practice, so he barely touched his plate. I was still starving, so I asked him, “are you done eating?” He responded with a nod indicating that he was done. I then proceeded by asking him if I could then have the rest of his food. He denied me.

I was so angry. If he had no interest in his food, then why was he not going to share it with me? Angered by this, I told him I thought he was a selfish brat. That then led to a bickering fight. Because neither of us decided to display kindness to one another we both ended up resenting each other that night.

When Tom has an encounter with the devil, he cannot decide if he should find the treasure of Kidd the pirate or not. When Tom asks his wife and notices the excitement and joy it brings her, he decides not to look for it. Tom has so much resentment towards his wife that he would rather lose something to prevent her from gaining anything. The resentment Tom has towards his wife, from her previous actions, is what drives his irrational decision making.

I especially liked this part of the book because I was very intrigued from my observations of how people respond to they resent. But what causes resentment? Greed does.

Neither Tom Walker nor his wife want to nurture the relationship by acting kind to one another. Their greed and selfishness result in their resentment toward each other. Hiding possessions from one another, neither is willing to give back. Tom even feels gratitude toward the devil because he killed his wife, meaning the devil does something good for Tom by killing his wife.

So, what is my point in comparing family stories with one of Irving’s works? Simple. It is important to keep others’ feelings in perspective. After analyzing this, if I could go back in time and change the way I reacted to my brother, I would. I would have been more outside of my own needs, so I could remember his.

The reason my brother did not give me any of his leftovers is because he resented me. He was sick and missed football practice, so he wanted me to feel just as bad he did, starving. He would have given some of his food if he felt like I cared about his situation, and not just my hunger needs. Greed has such a rotting effect on our relationships. Greed leads us to resentment which, only leaves nothing on our plates.

Lizzie Darwin is a special guest blogger this week. In Spring 2019, Lizzie 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 Lizzie’s response here on the website.

Published in: on August 28, 2019 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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