While my primary focus is on university students, I shall demonstrate in the latter part of my paper that Irving’s tale can also be adapted for use at high school.
My comments are based on a project conducted in 2005 at an American middle school.
I explore how the ideas presented in the story can be discussed in an argumentative literary essay at college or university level in such a way that they reflect critical thought about such issues as the sanctity of agreements, the reliability of textual evidence, values in life, the relationship between money and happiness, abuse of human relationships and the integrity of human action.
I briefly introduce a couple of websites that highlight different features of the tale.
The results of this project, highlighted in the article “Trading Spaces with Tom Walker: Moving the Devil out of Fourth Hour”, are briefly summarised and discussed.
Irving’s short story was published in 1824 as part of Washington Irving’s collection of short stories was generally poorly received by critics, who described it as “unoriginal”.It should be remembered that the short story was a relatively new form of fiction at the time, and many of its conventions were still being defined by such writers as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. the dangers of selling one’s soul to the devil, owes much to Goethe’s novel Faust.Irving adds to this theme the moral ideals common to New England in the early nineteenth century.Students should be asked to study and evaluate these sites, and any additional sites that they may find, in terms of academic quality and critical evaluation.Which sites are useful and acceptable academic sources, and why?Irving’s story can enable students and pupils to develop their critical reading and writing skills while at the same time learning to appreciate the value and importance of “good” literature.“Tom Walker and the Devil” is one of Irving’s finest stories in terms of theme, style and language.Three theories are particularly suitable: New Criticism, Historical Criticism and Psychological Criticism.Each of these three, or perhaps a combination of two of them, can enable the writer to explore his or her argument in detail and select relevant and convincing evidence from the text to support this.The following discussion focuses on paragraphs one and two of the story.These paragraphs have been chosen as they are crucial in setting the scene of the story and establishing the mood, key ideas and conclusions.