The Devil and Tom Walker

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Reading Comprehension Questions:

The Devil and Tom Walker” (177)

  1. What is the setting for this story? What is supposed to be hidden under one of the big trees beside the inlet? What happened to the person who hid it there? Who supposedly “presided”

Few miles from Boston – dark inlet – pirates; treasure buried by Kidd the pirate; Kidd was hanged; the Devil presided over the money’s burial

  1. Describe the marriage of Tom Walker and his wife. What bad traits do they have? (178)

Bad marriage – hit each other – hated each other

  1. Describe the Walker’s house. (178)

Forlorn, alone, struggling, sterility, land of famine

  1. Explain what “their conflicts were not confined to words” means. (178)

They beat the crap out of each other

  1. Why does Tom walk through the swamp on the way home one day? Where does Tom pause to rest? Why would most people not have stopped there?

Shortcut – “Like most short-cuts, it was an ill-chosen one.”; at the base of a tree by the old fort ; sacrifices have been made here

  1. What does Tom discover in the ground at his feet? What happens when he kicks it? (179)

A cloven skull with a tomahawk buried in it; the Devil appears when he kicks it.

  1. Why does the devil say that Deacon Peabody will be damned? What else do we learn Deacon Peabody has done which might be seen as a sin? (179)

look to his own sins and less to those of his neighbors” – got wealthy by driving shrewd bargains with the Indians

  1. What does the tree with Deacon Peabody’s name on it show about him? (How is it used as a symbol of his character?) (179)

He is rotten at the core even though he looks good (Don’t judge a book by its cover)

  1. After the devil cuts down a tree, what does he do with it? What is that a symbol of? (179)

Burns it – burning in hell

  1. What does the devil offer Tom? (181)

The $$

  1. What proof does the devil give Tom that what he has said is true? What does his wife tell him that convinces Tom that “all he had heard and seen was no illusion”?

Puts his finger on Tom’s forehead – finds the black mark permanently there – death of Crowningshield

  1. What surprising news does Tom receive from his wife when he returns? (181)

That Crowningshield has died

  1. When his wife hears Tom’s story, what is her reaction? How does this change Tom’s attitude / why does he decide not to bargain with Old Scratch? (181) What does Tom’s wife decide to do on her own?

She demands that he do it – he decides not to just to make her angry; she decides to go into the woods and make her own bargain with the devil

  1. What does Tom see up in a tree when he is looking for his wife? What is his reaction? Why?

Her apron heavily laden - He is happy because he has the valuables back

  1. Explain the irony of “He leaped for joy; for he recognized his wife’s apron, and supposed it to contain the household valuables.” How does Tom feel about the devil after this incident?

He is thankful that she is gone and he has his stuff back… he SHOULD be sad that she is gone; he feels gratitude to the devil for getting rid of her

  1. What is the “one condition which need not be mentioned”? (182)

Selling his soul to the Devil

  1. Explain “In proportion to the distress of the applicant was the hardness of his terms.” How does Tom become rich? How does he spend his money? What shows he is still a miser?

The worse off they were and the more they needed the money, the higher their repayment terms would be.; he lends money to other people and has them pay it back at steep interest rates; he is still a miser because he has a HUGE house but leaves part of it unfinished and unfurnished because he’s too cheap to fix it up

  1. When he gets old, what different things does he do to avoid keeping his end of the bargain he had made with the devil? (184)

He becomes a “violent churchgoer”

  1. What favor does a customer ask on Tom’s last day of life? Why does he think Tom might grant it? (184)

Give him a few more months to pay – “You have made so much money out of me.”

  1. What is Tom’s response to this customer’s request? What happens immediately after? Why? What has happened to Tom’s wealth by the end of the story?

The devil take me if I have made a farthing!” - and… the devil comes to take him. – Everything has turned to dust.

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