The Devil and Tom Walker by William Irving

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Written during the American Romanticism period, “The Devil and Tom Walker,” by William Irving, personifies the belief in the primacy of imagination. The period of Romanticism in America is often seen as the crucial period of American culture, as it was the central movement of the Renaissance period that moved into a more free-feeling and artistic approach to literature. American Gothic literature made its early appearance with William Irving, first with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in 1820, and carrying over to “The Devil and Tom Walker” in 1824, both of which use a macabre approach to establish a moral ending (Matterson). Told by a narrator known as Geoffrey Crayon, “The Devil and Tom Walker” takes on the tone of a legend or tall tale as the story describes the life of a greedy money lender by the name of Tom Walker, who sales his soul to the devil to gain wealth. Irving ultimately uses literary elements such as symbolism and character development, as well as including themes such as greed and hypocrisy to establish a moral to the corrupt man’s tale. Symbolism plays a vital role throughout Tom Walker’s tale. Set in the early to mid-18th century in the New England area, Irving uses the location’s landscape as a basis of symbolism throughout the story, as well as to represent the main character. The murky morass environment of the swamp in which Tom Walker meets the devil represents his soul which, like the swamp fog, is clouded and thick with greed. The swamp areas of the New England areas were also used as a stronghold by the Native Americans against the Europeans during the Indian battles. Ironically, this same area in the story is seen as the devil’s stronghold, which symbolizes the prejudice that was still prevalent in the... ... middle of paper ... 2014. "Overview: “The Devil and Tom Walker”." Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them. Joyce Moss and George Wilson. Vol. 1: Ancient Times to the American and French Revolutions. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. "An overview of “The Devil and Tom Walker”." Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. Skinner, Charles M. “Takes of Puritan Land: The Devil and Tom Walker.” Myths & Legends of Our Own Land. 97-99. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, 2006. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. Stewart, Larry L. “The Devil and Tom Walker.” Masterplots ll: Short Story Series, Revised Edition (2004): 1-2. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

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