Romanticism – Devil and Tom Walker

“The Devil and Tom Walker” is a short story that revolves around supernatural events, nature, and challenges its own characters to change their pasts. For instance, the Devil in “The Devil and Tom Walker” is a supernatural entity who promises fortune if Tom sells his soul. The supernatural events displayed here display the emotional wishes of both Tom and his wife. He is miserable living with his wife and cannot stand her. The Devil ends up taking the soul of Tom’s wife, which prompts Tom to feel “…gratitude towards the black woodsman, who he considered had done him a kindness” (“Washington Irving”). The Devil is able to successfully take action on the inner emotions and desires of the others characters in a way only a supernatural entity could and reality could not. Furthermore, Nature is prevalent in “The Devil and Tom Walker” because many Romantic writers believed that nature provided good emotions as compared to the ugly emotions caused by urbanization.

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Irving uses nature to connect the real world with the imaginative and supernatural world and adds human elements to nature to romanticize them. The devil presents himself to Tom as “… the Wild Huntsman in some countries; the Black Miner in others. In this neighbourhood I am known by the name of the Black Woodsman.” (“Washington Irving”). Irving uses nature to describe the Devil to blend in the supernatural entity of the Devil to the romantic aspects of nature. Finally, the Romantic tenet of challenging characters to change their own pasts is rampant throughout “The Devil and Tom Walker”. The Devil loved his reputation and sought to lengthen his legacy by seeking out individuals and taking their souls. Tom was a greedy man, who wanted money over anything else.

When the oppurtunity of seizing this fortune presented itself to Tom, he took advantage of it, even if that meant taking money from poor, innocent farmers later in his life and attempting to follow a religious life in order to rid himself of the Devil. In regards to selling her soul and receiving fortune, Tom’s wife was “…determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself.” (“Washington Irving”). Tom’s wife was a greedy woman and by challenging her past and seeking to be free of Tom and receive fortune, she ends up selling her soul to the Devil and dying. “The Devil and Tom Walker” presents the Devil, nature, and the character’s love of greed and their reputation as three basic tenets of Romantic literature.

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