• To read and analyze a short story
about the consequences of a man’s
pact with the devil 
• To identify the elements of a tall tale 
• To write an effective character sketch
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Washington Irving
was born in 1783
and died in 1859.
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more about Washington Irving.
BACKGROUND
The Time and Place
“The Devil and Tom Walker” takes place in New
England in the 1720s–when Puritanism was
fading and the urge to acquire wealth was
growing. 
Literary Influences
Both Irving and his readers would have been
familiar with two references that appear in this
tale. The first reference is to Captain William
Kidd (c. 1645–1701), a real pirate who became
the subject of many legends. The second is to
Faust, who makes a deal with the devil.
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VOCABULARY PREVIEW
prevalent: (adj) widespread; p. 204 
discord: (n) lack of agreement or harmony;
conflict; p. 204 
impregnable: (adj) incapable of being taken by
force; able to resist attack; p. 205 
melancholy: (adj) depressing; dismal; gloomy;
p. 205 
surmise: (v) to infer from little evidence; to
guess; p. 207 
obliterate: (v) to remove all traces of; to erase;
p. 207
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VOCABULARY PREVIEW (cont.)
speculate: (v) to engage in risky business
ventures, hoping to make quick profits;
p. 210 
parsimony: (n) excessive frugality; stinginess;
p. 211
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FOCUS ACTIVITY
Have you ever made a decision or commitment
that you later regretted? 
Journal
Write for a few minutes in your journal
about the results of your decision and how
you might have acted differently. 
Setting a Purpose
Read to find out the results of the main
character’s decision.
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A Active Reading
Predict
Predict the direction the story will take by
focusing on the details in the title and the first
four paragraphs of the story.
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ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ
B Literary Elements
Motif
Irving mentions Captain Kidd shortly before he
introduces Tom and his wife.
Why does he do this?
Irving implies that both Kidd and the Walkers
are dedicated to selfishness and greed.
Greed is a recurring motif in the story. It is evident
in the wife’s plan to meet the devil, in Tom’s
eventual acceptance of the devil’s bargain, and in
his sharp dealing as a moneylender.
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C Literary Elements
Figures of Speech: Simile
A simile is a comparison that uses the word like
or as to show a likeness between two seemingly
unlike things. Note Irving’s use of a simile to
compare the “trunks of pines and hemlocks” to
“alligators sleeping in the mire.”
What is the appropriateness of this
comparison?
It is appropriate on both the physical and
symbolic level: the texture of a tree trunk
resembles the skin of an alligator, and an
alligator is a reptile, suggesting the satanic
snake of the Garden of Eden.
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D Active Reading
Question
What might have been Irving’s purpose
in going into such detail about the
Indian fort?
The details foreshadow Tom’s discovery
of the skull. The tomahawk’s association
with “savages” and their “sacrifices to the
evil spirit” connects the Indians with the
devil. Tom’s kick initiates the devil’s
sudden appearance.
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E Critical Thinking
Drawing Conclusions
Focus on the stranger’s appearance, words,
and actions before Tom asks his direct question
about the stranger’s identity.
What details help you identify the
stranger?
His blackened face links him to the “fires
and forges” of hell, and he has an evil
“pair of great red eyes.” Saying “I am
likely to have a good stock of firewood
[that is, souls to burn] for winter” is an
allusion to his identity.
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F Active Reading
Visualize
Tom learns that the tall trees, “fair and
flourishing without,” are actually “rotten
at the core.”
What is the link between Crowninshield
and these trees?
Crowninshield, rich through piracy, was
morally as rotten as the trees.
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G Literary Elements
Character: Context Clues
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from the story. 
What is the common thread running
through the devil’s nicknames?
Huntsman, miner, woodsman–they are all
gatherers.
What is it that the devil gathers?
He gathers souls.
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H Active Reading
Question
Think about the “certain conditions” that Tom
might accept to get the hidden money. Irving
later hints of these conditions when he writes,
“the more resolute was Tom not to be damned
to please her.”
What deal do you think Tom has made?
I Literary Elements
Tall Tale
Typically a tall tale contains exaggerations.
What are the exaggerations in the first
column on page 207?
The stranger seems to disappear “down,
down, down into the earth,” and Tom
observes a permanent imprint of a finger
burned into his forehead.
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J Active Reading
Evaluate
Is Tom’s uneasiness caused by a
genuine concern about his wife’s safety
or concern for the loss of the silver
articles?
K Literary Elements
Tone: Satire
Literature that uses wit and irony to ridicule human
vice or folly is called satire. Some works are entirely
satiric; others, like “The Devil and Tom Walker,”
contain satiric passages.
Which passages in the fourth and fifth
paragraphs on page 209 appear satiric?
Two satiric comments include “a female scold
is generally considered a match for the devil”
and “Tom consoled himself for the loss of his
property with the loss of his wife.” Both rely
on humor growing out of the war between the
sexes.
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L Active Reading
Review
Are Tom’s responses to the Devil
surprising?
Tom’s responses are very much in
character. From the beginning Irving
establishes Tom’s greed and his
eagerness to find the devil again after his
wife’s disappearance.
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M Literary Elements
Theme: Universal Truths
What does Irving’s reference on page
210 to Tom as a “ready-moneyed man”
contribute to the overall meaning of the
story?
Irving suggests that Tom’s greed is not
unique. The desire to make “sudden
fortunes from nothing” infects vast
numbers of citizens and leads to their
“doleful plight.” Irving’s view is that the
love of money is the root of all evil and
that all who seek to get rich quick have
made a devil’s bargain.
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N Critical Thinking
Inferring
Do you think Tom is a hypocrite? What
details support your inference?
Tom’s public appearance masks his real
self. Instead of being a “universal friend of
the needy,” he squeezes his customers dry;
his “vast house” is actually “unfinished and
unfurnished”; he owns a carriage but starves
his horse; he attempts to compensate for his
great sins with outward and zealous
religious acts; he points out his neighbors’
sins but never acknowledges his own.
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O Active Reading
Predict
On page 211 what might Irving’s “black
thunder gust” anticipate in this story?
The coming “black thunder gust” suggests
that Tom’s life is about to change–and not
for the better. Weather plays a similar role
in other works, including Shakespeare’s
plays and in many horror movies.
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P Author’s Craft
Alliteration
The repetition of initial letters can give
emphasis (as in the product name Coca-Cola),
can connect two concepts (as in “patience”
and “piety”), and can create humor (as in
tongue twisters). On page 212 at the top of the
second column, Irving’s alliteration creates
ironic humor, since losing one’s patience is far
different from losing one’s religious devotion.
Q Literary Elements
Symbol
How is the description of the “big
Bible … buried under the mortgage”
symbolic?
God’s word is “buried” under a potent
symbol of Tom’s greed.
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Personal Response
Analyzing Literature
Literary Elements
Literature and Writing
Skill Minilessons
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corresponding content area.
PERSONAL RESPONSE
How did you react to Tom and his
wife? Share your responses.
RECALL
What kind of people are Tom Walker and
his wife? Describe what you know about
them.
Each tries to cheat the other; the wife attacks
Tom; there does not seem to be any love
between them.
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INTERPRET
How are Tom and his wife alike? In your
opinion, does Tom’s wife contribute to
Tom’s cooperation with the devil? Explain.
Both are greedy. Tom’s wife encourages him to
cultivate a friendship with the devil, which he
does after she disappears.
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RECALL
How does Tom react to the devil and
his offer?
Not repelled, Tom asks for time to consider
the devil’s offer.
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INTERPRET
What does Tom’s agreement with the
devil tell you about Tom?
Tom is so avaricious that he sacrifices his
soul for wealth and status.
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RECALL
What happens to Tom’s wife?
She disappears, and Tom later finds a heart
and liver tied in her apron.
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INTERPRET
The narrator offers different versions of
what might have happened to Tom’s wife.
What might the narrator want us to
believe? Explain.
The narrator wants us to believe Tom’s wife
was killed by the devil. It is “the most current
and probable” and “authentic” version.
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RECALL
What business does Tom go into?
What makes this possible, and what
makes this a good time to go into such
a business?
The devil persuades Tom to become a
moneylender and supplies the money at a
time when feverish speculation and getrich-quick schemes are flourishing.
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INTERPRET
What can you infer about the
narrator’s attitude toward money and
the people who care about it? What
evidence supports your inference?
The narrator implies that people overly fond
of money are in the grip of the devil: Tom’s
wife disappears in search of it; ruined
speculators are called “patients”; Tom
himself “goes to the devil” because of it.
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RECALL
What finally happens to Tom Walker?
He is whisked away by the devil, and his
wealth is reduced to cinders.
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INTERPRET
The narrator tells us what happens to
Tom’s possessions. What do you
understand from this?
The narrator believes that material wealth
is “perishable.”
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EVALUATE AND CONNECT
What do you think is the purpose of
this story? How does this story differ
from the histories, religious tracts, and
political papers that most American
writers of the time were producing?
The purpose is twofold: to entertain with
lively characters and farfetched
occurrences and to warn against putting
worldly goods above spiritual matters.
The message is entertaining.
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EVALUATE AND CONNECT
Satire is a form of writing that uses
humor, not as an end in itself, but as a
weapon against someone or
something–a person, a group, or a
habit. In what ways is this story a
satire? What is made fun of?
The story satirizes marriage, the
expectation that characters will be
heroes, and the social institutions
fostering uncontrolled growth and greed.
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EVALUATE AND CONNECT
Have you ever made a decision or
commitment that you later regretted?
Compare the decision you regretted
with Tom Walker’s decision and its
consequences.
Possible answer: Tom’s only regret would
be that he got “caught.”
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EVALUATE AND CONNECT
The narrator often issues disclaimers
by saying “people said” or “it is said.”
How did you respond to these
disclaimers? How do you think other
readers might respond? Explain.
Possible answer: Disclaimers establish a
distance between the narrator and the
tale.
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EVALUATE AND CONNECT
Theme Connections What are some of
the insights that this story conveys? In
your opinion what is the most powerful
message? Explain.
Possible answer: Greed endangers the
soul, and insincere religious zeal does not
offer redemption.
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LITERARY ELEMENTS
• “The Devil and Tom Walker” is a tall tale,
a type of folklore associated with the
American frontier. 
• Tall tales are humorous stories that contain
exaggerations and invention. 
• Typically, their heroes are bold but foolish
characters who may have superhuman
abilities or who may act as if they do. 
• Tall tales are not intended to be believable;
their exaggerations are used for comic
effect.
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LITERARY ELEMENTS
When Tom’s wife disappears, what
does Tom do and say? What makes
this comic instead of sad?
Tom says, “Let us get hold of the property,
and we will endeavor to do without the
woman.” The phrasing makes this line
more comic than sad.
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LITERARY ELEMENTS
Tom’s greed is exaggerated. How does
Irving show this?
In making the bargain, Tom doubles each
of the devil’s requirements.
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LITERARY ELEMENTS
What other comic exaggerations can
you find?
Other exaggerations include the wife’s
treatment of Tom and Tom’s excessive
religious zeal.
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Character Sketch
Irving describes Tom Walker’s appearance, his
actions, his words, and the reactions of other
characters to him. Write a brief character
sketch of Tom, using details from the story to
support your description.
Practice: Choose the word that best completes each
analogy.
1. discord : harmony :: conflict : _______
a. agreement b. fight
c. tension
2. calm : nervous :: melancholy : ________
a. gloomy
b. cheerful
c. sad
3. generousity : parsimony :: wealth : _______
a. greed
b. riches
c. poverty
4. prevalent : uncommon :: often : _______
a. frequent
b. common c. seldom
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Television Script
After listening to the
introduction, read
the television script
on page 216 of your
textbook and
respond to the
questions on the
following slides.
This feature is found on page 216 of your textbook.
Television Script
How does Bart’s
“joke” backfire on
him?
In his dream, Bart finds
that by selling his soul,
he will have no friends,
he will be the butt of
jokes, and he will never
reach the “glowing
Emerald City.”
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This feature is found on page 216 of your textbook.
Television Script
Do you think Lisa
does the right thing
by helping Bart?
Explain.
This feature is found on page 216 of your textbook.
Using Roots to
Understand New Words
When you read, you are likely to come across
unfamiliar words. There are several techniques that
can help you understand these words. One good way
to begin is to identify the word’s root–the element that
expresses the basic meaning of the word. Although
English borrows words from many languages, a great
number of word roots trace their origins to Greek or
Latin words. Knowing some common Greek and Latin
roots can boost your understanding of what you read.
This feature is found on page 217 of your textbook.
Using Roots to
Understand New Words
In “The Devil and Tom Walker,” Washington Irving
uses the word recognize. The word’s root comes
from the Latin cogn, meaning “to know.” In the story,
Tom Walker recognizes his wife’s apron as he
searches for her. In other words, he sees something
he has previously known. The following words contain
the same root as recognize:
cognitive cognizant cognition incognito
Since a number of words may come from the same
root, a knowledge of common roots can help you
recognize the meaning of many words.
This feature is found on page 217 of your textbook.
Using Roots to
Understand New Words
Here are a few useful roots to know.
Root
Meaning
Example
facilis
easy
facilitate
cult
to care for
agriculture
vivi
live
vivacious
verb
word
verbal
Words change over time, of course, and you may not
know what a word means even if you recognize its
root. Still, looking at the root of an unfamiliar word is
one good place to begin as you try to figure out that
word’s meaning.
This feature is found on page 217 of your textbook.
Using Roots to
Understand New Words
The words below appear in “The Devil and Tom Walker.” The
root of each word is listed on the previous slide. Find the word in
the story and define it as it is used there.
a. facility (page 204)
meaning: ease in performing
b. cultivate (page 209)
meaning: to promote, foster, or develop
c. reviving (page 211)
meaning: bringing back into existence
d. proverb (page 213)
meaning: a short, pithy saying expressing
popular wisdom
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This feature is found on page 217 of your textbook.
Tom’s starving horse is an example of his greed.
Rotting logs in the swamp create an ominious, sinister, and dangerous
setting.
This reference is to the customers Tom “squeezes” for every cent he can.
The screech of wagon wheels is a reminder that the carriage was paid for
by the people Tom has ruined.
Tom’s loud praying shows that Tom believes that showing excessive zeal
might save him.
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