The Devil and Tom Walker and Rip Van Wrinkle
“The Devil and Tom Walker” and “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving are two very similar yet different stories. Both of these stories talk about the American Dream and how one can want it but be disappointed when one gets it. Tom and Rip both have wives that are turning points in the stories. They both nag so much that it drives them to crazy things. The imagery in these stories gives a real feel for the scenery and how it interacts with the stories. Van Winkle and Tom both get what they wanted but once they achieve it they find that it is not what they want and regret their decisions.
The message in these stories is be careful who you interact with they may not be who one wants them to be. The American Dream is to gain a great deal of wealth no matter the circumstances. Tom Walker and his wife are all about the Dream and Rip Van Winkle is wants his version of wealth to just fall into his lap. To Tom and his wife wealth is heaps and heaps of gold or money. Tom’s wife “avarice was awakened at the mention of hidden gold, and she urged her husband to comply with the black man’s terms and secure what would make them wealthy for life. (Washington Irving). She is so willing to do anything to get gold that she would even make a deal with the Devil. Tom makes the deal with the Devil and he becomes a slave trader. That is a horrific job, selling other human beings, but he still made a lot of money. Tom achieves the American Dream but not in the way he wanted to. He thought he would just obtain wealth, but he had to work for the money. To Rip Van Winkle wealth is not having your wife nagging you and getting to be happy. He leaves to the mountain so he can get away from her.
He thinks he will get away from her for a while but he gets stuck sleeping for twenty years. Van Winkle achieves the Dream but he realizes that he doesn’t want the dream. In both of these stories Rip Van Winkle and Tom Walker achieve the American Dream but they realize it is not what the believed they wanted. Tom and Rip are very similar and different. First of all “Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil. Tom is a man who doesn’t easily get frightened. On the other hand “Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with the least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. ” He is a man who is happy with life and would rather starve than work for money. They are similar in their troubles though. Rip Van Winkle wants to get rid of his wife and so does Tom Walker.
Tom and Rip both regret their decisions at the end of the stories. Tom regretting making the deal with Old Scratch and Rip regretting helping the hiker on the mountain because he loses his wife and “many of his former cronies”. Next we have the husband wife relationship in both cases. Now Rip was sort of a say nothing do nothing when it came to his house and wife. His wife would bad mouth him and yell at him, but Rip wouldn’t do much of anything. He would just go off and sleep not worrying about anything. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family… He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence”. If his wife wouldn’t nag him, Rip Van Winkle would go on and live life in perfect satisfaction.
Every time Rips wife would ask him to do something, he would just shrug it off all day and everyday. She would talk all day and if Rip actually attempted to help or do what she said he would get bad mouthed and it would produce more chaos in his house than there was before. Now Tom and his wife on the other hand would battle to the death. Tom would yell and scream so his wife might agree with him. “Many and bitter were the quarrels they had on the subject, but the more she talked the more resolute was Tom not to be damned to please her.
At length she determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself”. They had verbal and physical battles all the time. The more she argued the more Tom would not want to do whatever she wanted him to do. In this case the more she wanted Tom to make the deal with Old Scratch the more he did not want to do it. Tom would hide money and so would his wife wouldn’t get rich with him. In both of the stories the wife husband relationship would be a turning point in both cases.
In “Rip Van Winkle”, his wife verbally abused him so much that he just left and went to the mountains to get away from her constant nagging. In “The Devil and Tom Walker”, Tom’s wife basically makes Tom make the deal. She tries to make the deal but Old Scratch kills her and that is what seals the deal for Tom. When he finds his wife’s apron and her organs, he goes and makes the deal. These wives are the reason for the bad that happens to Tom Walker and Rip Van Walker. The scenery shows great imagery.
One can tell “Rip Van Winkle” is set in a fantasy world right away by the way Irving sort of zooms in on the scene, first he tells of the mountains and then the town “When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory. ” When the weather is fair the mountains are blue and purple, and they show their outlines against the sky.
The fog gathers on the mountains as hoods and the sun rays light up the mountains. He then zooms in on the town, then you find yourself in a room with Rip Van Winkle and his wife. In “The Devil and Tom Walker” the Washington Irving gives describes the inlet where Old Scratch is found. “On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the water’s edge, into a high ridge on which grow a few scattered oaks of great age and immense size. ” There is a dark grove where the water rises right up to the gigantic oaks.
In both of the stories you get the feeling of something supernatural is going to happen. Washington Irving use imagery suitably for each story. Both Rip Van Winkle and Tom Walker get what they want. In Rip’s case he wanted to get rid of his wife and his jobs. He goes to the mountain to escape from his wives verbal abuse and he basically gets a new life. In Tom’s case he wants money and doesn’t want his wife. He meets the Devil, and the Devil wants to make him a deal. The deal is to give Old Scratch Tom Walker’s soul and Old Scratch will make Tom wealthy.
Tom wants to make the deal with Old Scratch, but he doesn’t want to do it for his wife to get rich with him. When she goes and tries to make the deal with the Devil, she gets murdered by Old Scratch and that makes Tom seal the deal with him. In the end, Tom is held up to his end of the deal, his soul. The message in these two stories is be careful who you interact with. Rip was climbing the mountain to get away from his nagging wife. He saw a man that “bore on his shoulder a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load.
Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity”. This man wanted Rip to help him with a keg and normally Rip doesn’t help people but he randomly helped this man. If he wouldn’t have helped the man, Rip may have never fallen asleep in the mountains for twenty years. Tom interacted with Old Scratch, the Devil. Tom was just taking a short cut and found the Devil on an Indian burial ground. The Devil wanted Tom’s soul and did whatever he could to get Tom’s soul. Tom got sucked in by the money that he could have and agreed to the Devils deal.
If Tom hadn’t been so greedy, he may never have been so frustrated to call upon the Devil and might still have been able to live a longer life. These stories give great contrast and comparison. The American Dream shows that what you want isn’t always what you think you want. Their wives drive these stories and make Tom and Rip do their crazy things. The imagery in these stories shows how important the scenery is to the stories. Getting what you want isn’t always the best thing for you. Tom and Rip find that out the hard way.