The Devil and Tom Walker

How does the story use satire?

Satire is a form of writing that uses humor as a way of criticizing someone or something. In what ways is this story a satire? Do you agree with Irving's implied criticisms?

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"The Devil and Tom Walker" is first and foremost a satirical account of the perils of greed, and in this section, Tom pays the price for his greed that never ended. This satire is very relevant to the time period in which Irving wrote this story, as the early 1800s were a time of constant land expansion and industrial growth. American landowners and businesspeople consistently coveted more even though they already had plenty, just like Tom Walker does in this story.

In this final section of the story, Irving satirizes not only greed, but also religious devotion for the wrong reasons. People—Tom Walker a shining example—often wrongfully believe that outward displays of piety are enough to atone for hidden lives full of sin, and Irving clearly believes that this is not the case. Tom Walker is the ultimate hypocrite in this section, praying and carrying around a Bible yet still seeking to obtain the wealth of others. In the end, Tom's false front of religious zeal is not enough to save him from the fate that he sealed for himself as soon as he accepted the devil's bargain.