'The Devil and Tom Walker' Characters

Washington Irving's Famous Short Stories

Washington Irving
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Who are the characters in "The Devil and Tom Walker," by Washington Irving? Why are these characters so famous? How do they relate to other characters in literature?

The Characters in "The Devil and Tom Walker"

Tom Walker: The protagonist of "The Devil and Tom Walker." Described as "a meagre miserly fellow," he is probably Washington Irving's most despised (or least likable) character. Despite his many unsavory characteristics, he is also memorable.

Initially, Tom Walker rejects Old Scratch's offer, but he eventually gives into the Devil's "conditions"--with conditions.

Tom Walker has been compared to Faust/Faustus, a character who has appeared in countless works through literary history, from Christopher Marlowe, Goethe, and beyond.

Tom's wife: Minor character. Her name is never given, but she can be likened to her husband in her miserly nature and volatile temper. "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; and his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words."

Old Scratch: Another name for the Devil. Old Scratch is described as a dark-skinned man. Washington Irving wrote: "It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper color, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges.

He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an ax on his shoulder."

The actions of Old Scratch are similar to other tales where he is the tempter, who offers the protagonist riches or another gain in exchange for the character's soul.

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