Washington Irving the author of The Devil and Tom Walker uses the setting of the story to convey that things with a good appearance can be deceiving and be putrid on the inside. He also creates the right atmosphere for the story, and gives precise details to the audience so they can predict the topic and how it will develop. In addition, he describes each character in a manner that the readers can infer who they are, their personal characteristics, and the decisions that they might make throughout the development of the story. Moreover, he provides a background for each character in order to understand their actions and their ending.
This tall tale occurs near Boston, Massachusetts that as recorded in history was the place that held the witch hangings in 1692. Moreover he wrote “there is a deep inlet, winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp or morass.” The mentioned description and information gives an overview that the tale may contain supernatural situations and smuggling – or related situations- because it provides the perfect sinister and gloomy environment.
As equally important when Irving describes the swamp, where most of the story take place, he gives details such as “On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the waters’ edge into a high ridge” He also says “It was full of pits and quagmires, partly covered with weeds and mosses, where the green surface often betrayed the traveler into a gulf of black, smothering mud” These depictions provide information for the audience to deduce that the swamp is a place that seems safe and beautiful, but any careless step could bring in destruction or obstacles. These speculations are proven true when the termagant wife of Tom Walker goes into the swamp and gets slaughtered by the devil.
Secondly, the swamp was covered with “great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core.” Tom Walker noticed that the trees had the names of some influential and good people of the colony. For instance, there was a tree with the name of “Deacon Peabody, an eminent man who had waxed wealthy by driving shrewd bargains with the Indians.” Also, there was another tree with the name of “Crowninshield a mighty rich manwho made a vulgar display of wealth which it was whispered he had acquired by buccaneering.” These situations showed that the people that seemed to be good Samaritans among the community had gotten their power through ill-gotten ways, so their appearance conveyed nothing of what their true selves were.
Furthermore, the author never mentions directly that the devil is present in the story, but he gives out clues so the reader can infer it. For example, he mentions “he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt swathed round his body his face was begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges.” Irving also mentions he has cloven feet and calls him “wild huntsman, black miner, black woodsman, or the great patron of slave dealers and.Salem witches.”
The main characters at the beginning of the story are Tom and his wife. The author describes their traits by using the image of their house. “They lived in a forlorn-looking house that stood alone and had an air of starvation.” This illustrated that they were greedy and cared little about spending their money in decorating the house or even feeding their horse whose ribs were “as articulate as the bars of a gridiron.” These details make the audience wonder if either Tom Walker or his wife will make a deal with the devil, since they are not concerned about anything else but money and power. As the narrative continues, Tom’s wife goes to make a bargain with the devil, and “Tom grew uneasy for her safety, especially as he found she had carried the silver teapot and spoons and every portable article of value.” At a first glace these lines demonstrate that maybe Tom cares about his wife, but on deeper reading, it is obvious that he is disturbed because she took valuable objects. Washington Irving not only uses the idea of things being deceiving in his descriptions and setting but also in his writing.
In conclusion, the imagery and the scenery that he used not only proved that what might seem true could be nothing of what is expected but also he provided enough information to deduce how the tale was going to develop.