Q:

What is the climax of "The Devil and Tom Walker"?

A:

The climax of "The Devil and Tom Walker" takes place when the devil comes calling for Tom Walker's soul, pounding three times on the door after Tom makes the mistake of sarcastically summoning the devil during a conversation with one of his debtors. Tom has spent his life growing wealthy on the basis of a deal with Old Scratch after the death of his wife.

Washington Irving wrote quite a few stories about interactions between humans and the supernatural, and "The Devil and Tom Walker" features the temptations that money brings to those who are poor. Tom Walker is a greedy man who, even with miserly habits, has not been able to get out of poverty. He is walking in the swamp one day, and he meets the devil in the guise of a lumberjack chopping trees down, each with the name of a well-known colonist. The devil offers Tom the treasure of the dead pirate Kidd in exchange for Tom's immortal soul. A little leery of the deal, Tom asks for time to go home and think about it. However, he tells his wife about the offer, and when he is out one day, she goes to the devil and takes the deal. However, she also takes many of Tom's things with her, and when Tom goes looking for her, he just finds his wife's apron, holding her liver and heart, tied onto a tree.

Because Tom is excited about his wife's death, he takes the deal, only then becoming quite religious while also charging high rates of interest on the money that the devil has given him. He carries two Bibles with him all the time, but when a borrower asks for mercy, he says, "The Devil take me if I have made but a farthing!" Suddenly, the Devil comes for his due.


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