Intent and Motive in The Devil and Tom Walker and The Devil and Daniel Webster

Intent and Motive in The Devil and Tom Walker and The Devil and Daniel Webster

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Intent and Motive in The Devil and Tom Walker and The Devil and Daniel Webster  


   Washington Irving, in writing "The Devil and Tom Walker", and Stephen Vincent Benet, in writing "The Devil and Daniel Webster" illustrate to the reader the consequences of man's desire for material wealth and how a person's motivation for a relationship with the devil affects the outcome of the "deal". In these two different, yet surprisingly similar narratives, the authors present their beliefs about human intent and motive.

In "The Devil and Tom Walker", the story is seen of a stingy man and his nagging wife who "...were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other" (128). In the story, one sees a man make a deal with the devil, who in the story is known as "Old Scratch", for the sole purpose of personal gain. Tom Walker, seeing only the possible wealth that he could achieve, bargains with the devil and finally reaches an agreement which he sees to be fair. Tom does not see the danger present in bargaining with such a powerful force for so little gain. There is a note of humor present in the narrative, which adds to the sense of danger that is present making deals that one does not intend to keep. Commenting on the story, Larry L. Stevens notes that "This tale,..., comically presents the results of valuing the dollar above all else." This story does a very good job of conveying a message to the reader about human values.

In the story Tom is seen as a very self-centered man who cares only for himself and his own well being. He is not even phased when he discovers the remains of his wife hanging in a apron in a tree; "Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property with the loss of his wife" (132). Tom is portrayed in ...


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...Daniel Webster". in Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Fannie Safier et al. Athena Edition. Austin: Holt, 1996. 635-643.

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Irving, Washington. "The Devil and Tom Walker". in Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Fannie Safier et al. Athena Edition. Austin: Holt, 1996. 128-135.

Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 2. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1989.

Peck, David. Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 2. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1989. 575-578.

Stewart, Larry L. Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 2. Pasadena: Salem Press, 1989. 579-581.

Wagenknecht, Edward. "Washington Irving: Moderation Displayed". Oxford UP. 1962. 233. in Discovering Authors.

Macintosh. CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. 3.

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