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The Devil and Tom Walker Lesson Plans

The short story “The Devil and Tom Walker” is a dark and eerie tale of a man’s unhealthy obsession that leads him to make a deal with the Devil. Although he believes he can change his fate by repenting his sins, in the end, the devil takes his due.

Student Activities for The Devil and Tom Walker

Essential Questions for “The Devil and Tom Walker”

  1. How far would you go, or what price would you pay, to achieve what you want?
  2. What are some things in life that you cannot take back?
  3. How do good authors use suspense and imagery in their writing?

A Quick Summary of “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving

Tom Walker and his wife are miserly and bitter towards each other. The couple even goes as far as hiding money from each other. One day Tom takes a shortcut through a swamp to get home. While resting, his staff hits something on the ground. As Tom unearths it, he realizes it is a skull with an Indian tomahawk cutting it down the middle. A gruff voice says, “Let that skull alone!” Perplexed that someone could approach without his knowledge, he asks the man's identity. Tom soon finds out that he is speaking with the Devil himself.

The Devil takes a liking to Tom, and tells him about a buried treasure he may have if Tom agrees to make a pact with him. Reluctant, Tom returns home to consult his wife on the matter. After speaking with her, he finds himself disinclined to agree with her, especially since she was urging him to bargain away his soul.

Upset with her husband, Tom's wife leaves the house with all their possessions to make a pact with “Old Scratch” herself. Three days pass, and Tom leaves to find her. When he ventures to the swamp, he sees his wife's apron hanging in a tree. However, all that is left inside is a heart and a liver. Indifferent to his wife's apparent death, Tom seeks out the Devil and agrees to the pact. As part of the conditions, Tom is required to use the pirate gold for nefarious business. After much debate, he agrees to start a business as a usurer, a moneylender.

Years go buy, and Tom has been made wealthy by squeezing the money out of his debtors. As time progress, he begins to feel choked by the bargain he struck. Worrying about the quality of his next life, he begins fervently attending church and repenting his sins. He seems very devout, even reading his Bible between business transactions.

One day, a debtor came to plead with Tom not to foreclose on his land, crying that he would be forced on the church, reasoning that Tom has made his money off of him. Tom replies: “The Devil take me if I have made a farthing!" There are three loud knocks at the door. Tom realizes he has left his Bible on his desk, and he is carried off by the Devil and they disappear in a flash of lightning.

Other Lesson Plans & Ideas

  1. Use storyboards that show specific cause and effects of events in the story.
  2. By just depicting the rising action, create a storyboard demonstrating how the author built suspense.
  3. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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