Реферат: Untitled Essay Research Paper Human Intent and

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

Human Intent and the Aftermath of It

Washington Irving, in writing “The Devil and Tom Walker”, and Stephen Vincent

Benet, in writing “The Devil and Daniel Webster” illustrate to the reader


consequences of man’s desire for material wealth and how a person’s motivation

for a

relationship with the devil affects the outcome of the “deal”. In these two

different, yet

surprisingly similar narratives, the authors present their beliefs about

human intent and


In “The Devil and Tom Walker”, the story is seen of a stingy man and his


wife who “…were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other”

(128). In the

story, one sees a man make a deal with the devil, who in the story is known

as “Old

Scratch”, for the sole purpose of personal gain. Tom Walker, seeing only

the possible

wealth that he could achieve, bargains with the devil and finally reaches

an agreement

which he sees to be fair. Tom does not see the danger present in bargaining

with such

a powerful force for so little gain. There is a note of humor present in

the narrative,

which adds to the sense of danger that is present making deals that one does


intend to keep. Commenting on the story, Larry L. Stevens notes that “This


comically presents the results of valuing the dollar above all else.” This

story does a

very good job of conveying a message to the reader about human values.

In the story Tom is seen as a very self-centered man who cares only for himself


his own well being. He is not even phased when he discovers the remains of

his wife

hanging in a apron in a tree; “Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property

with the

loss of his wife” (132). Tom is portrayed in the story as being typical of

many of the

citizens who lived in the town, many of who’s names Old Scratch had carved

into the

bark of a tree near the Indian Fort. When the devil shows Tom a tree for

a greedy

townsperson, he fails to see that he is very much like that tree when he

“looked in the

direction that the stranger pointed and beheld one of the great trees, fair


flourishing without, but rotten at the core” (130).

As time passes after Tom has made his deal with the devil, and he is working

as a

usurer in Boston, squeezing every last cent out of the unlucky speculators

that walked

through his door, Tom begins to wonder whether he made the right choice when


dealt with Old Scratch: “He thought with regret on the bargain he had made

with his

black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions”

(134). Tom’s

decision to attempt to cheat the devil becomes his downfall. Tom now begins

a routine

of attending a Church service and praying loudly for everyone to hear, and

he outfits

himself with two Bibles which he thinks will protect him to the end. In a

great irony

Irving tells of how Tom will put down his Bible for a few minutes while he

forecloses a

mortgage of some poor borrower, and the resumes his reading when he is finished.

Stevens recognized this irony and noted that “Irving has a keen eye for the

ironies and

contradictions of human behavior.” Irving presents the reader with the difficulty


can arise when intentions are based solely on personal gain. In the story,

one sees

how Tom Walker’s actions contradict each other in their meaning and purpose.

It is

seen in the story how Tom walker would show his devotion to the Church and

to God,

when he was truly only trying to protect himself from when the devil came

to collect

what was due. Stevens summarized Tom’s actions by noting that “…the tale


satirizes those who make a public show of devotion while retaining meanness

of spirit”.

Irving does a very good job of demonstrating the ill consequences that can

and most

likely will be a result of man’s lack of caring, and possibly ignorance.

Had Tom Walker

thought upon the deal more thoroughly, instead of jumping right into it,

he most likely

would not have suffered the terrible outcome of the deal. If he had realized

that the

wealth that he would achieve would be useless to him in the end, he would

probably be

living in his old house, unhappy and without a wife, but at least he would

have had his

dignity, for he could know that he did not sink to such lows as to give up

his soul for a

few years of unhappy wealth. The humor present in the tale does help to add

a bit of

liveliness to the narrative, keeping it from being completely dreary and

having a

melancholy-like mood. “While the selling of one’s soul and the inhumane

consequences of greed are significant, they become subjects for laughter


Irving’s character portrayals and his use of ironic understatement”, insightfully


Stevens of this, one of Irving’s finest works.

In “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, the reader learns the story of an extremely

unlucky New England farmer named Jabez Stone, who like Tom Walker, makes

a deal

with the devil for personal gain. In the narrative, Jabez is frustrated with

the illness of

his wife, the condition of his animals, and his unproductive crops. Jabez


summons the devil and makes a deal with him, stipulating that Jabez would

have great

success in all his undertakings, and that in seven years time, he would

relinquish his

soul to the devil, known in this story as “Scratch” or “Mr. Scratch”. However

when the

time comes for Jabez to give the devil what is legally his, he manages to

bargain for a

three year extension. When that time is almost over, Jabez employs the services

of the

notes speaker Daniel Webster, who, in the end, wins for Jabez stone his freedom


makes the devil put in writing that no New Hampshireman will be bothered

by him again

until “doomsday”.

There is one striking difference present between the two stories, and it

is a very

significant factor when analyzing the outcome of each character’s separate


That is the intentions that each one had when they made their deals. In “The

Devil and

Tom Walker”, Tom Walker bargains with the devil strictly for personal gain,


considering the needs of others. He does not see how his miserly ways are

ruining him

and he suffers severe consequences because of it. In “The Devil and Daniel


Jabez Stone signs a contract with the devil to save his family from starvation.

He was

thinking of others when he signed the contract, and not himself. That is

what leads to

Webster’s strong point for his defense of Jabez Stone, “Then he turned to


Stone…an ordinary man who’d had hard luck and wanted to change it. And,


he’d wanted to change it, now he was going to be punished for all eternity”


The story is truly a credit to the true Daniel Webster, as David Peck eloquently

noted: “The story tapped America’s love for folklore and legend,…, it

re-created the

story of a genuine American hero.” A “genuine American hero” is what Webster

is truly

portrayed as in this narrative. Peck also noted that “The story is praise

not only for

Daniel Webster, however, but also for his country, for the two are inextricably

intertwined.” This story also hints to the fact even though people may seem

to be cruel

and hard on the outside, they can be truly caring and compassionate. The

political and

spiritual lessons to be learned from “The Devil and Daniel Webster” are those


are very important to the existence and survival of every human being alive


Both “The Devil and Tom Walker” and “The Devil and Daniel Webster” both are

beautifully written masterpieces of American literature that will undoubtedly


cherished for generations of readers to come. This beauty comes from each


uniquely different American heritage which adds a certain flavor to each

of the works.

This is all summed up by Edward Wagenknecht in his “Washington Irving: Moderation

Displayed”, in reference to the book in which “The Devil and Tom Walker”


published: “‘The Devil and Tom Walker’ is,…, the finest narrative in this

part of the


Works Cited

Adventures in American Literature. Ed. Fannie Safier et al. Athena Edition.


Holt, 1996.

Benet, Stephen Vincent. “The Devil and Daniel Webster”. in Adventures in


Literature. Ed. Fannie Safier et al. Athena Edition. Austin: Holt, 1996.


Discovering Authors. Macintosh. CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.

Irving, Washington. “The Devil and Tom Walker”. in Adventures in American

Literature. Ed. Fannie Safier et al. Athena Edition. Austin: Holt, 1996.


Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 2. Pasadena:


Press, 1989.

Peck, David. Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol.


Pasadena: Salem Press, 1989. 575-578.

Stewart, Larry L. Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Ed. Frank N. Magill.

Vol. 2.

Pasadena: Salem Press, 1989. 579-581.

Wagenknecht, Edward. “Washington Irving: Moderation Displayed”. Oxford UP.

1962. 233. in Discovering Authors. Macintosh. CD-ROM. Detroit: Gale

Research, 1993. 3.

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