Romanticism in the Devil and Tom Watson


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Romanticism was an artistic literary movement that emphasized love, nature, emotion, and out-of-the-box ideas. It highlighted the difference between British literature and American literature in the 19th century because of its distinguishing style. Characteristics of this style include the belief that civilization is evil and nature is good, individualism, nature is the way to God and the value of imagination over realism. American Romanticism conveys the feeling of empowerment and being one with nature, they are not just romantic love stories. The Devil and Tom Watson are about a sorrowful man who hates his life, gives into the temptation of The Devil, and sells his soul to become rich. Washington Irving had lots of romantic literary aspects to his writing, especially in The Devil and Tom Watson.

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Irving wrote The Devil and Tom Watson in a time where all people cared about was money. No one was focusing on their faith and being devoted to God, instead, they were just greedy for riches and power. In the story, Tom Watson tried to resist the money being offered by The Devil, but ultimately, gave in to the temptation. He became money-hungry, and in love with the idea of being wealthy. As Tom is getting carried away to hell on The Devil’s horse, he says, “‘The devil take me if I have made a farthing!’” Tom is claiming that he never made any money from the man he is speaking to. This shows that he became so invested in money, he changed his attitude. He started lying about the money he was making and became greedy for the money he was making. He lost his moral sight because he was blinded by his newfound riches. This is an example of Romanticism because he became so morally corrupt and love-hungry. He lost his sense of purity.

A very obvious element of Romanticism in The Devil and Tom Walker is The Devil. Supernatural and paranormal aspects of a text are considered Romanticism. The supernatural activity represents the sense of imagination and emotion, rather than a realist mindset of the author. The Devil grants Tom and his wife an unworldly offer, something they can’t resist. He gives the couple an idea of a life they’ve always dreamed of, romanticizing the idea of wealth, to gain their trust. When Tom first saw The Devil he exclaimed, “‘you are he commonly called Old Scratch,’” and The Devil replied, ”’ The same, at your service!” The Devil is making himself known to Tom, trying to scare him into giving up his soul. Along with many others, supernatural occurrences and characters created Romanticism in the novel.

Irving used many different characteristics of English Romanticism in his writings. The mentions of the devil and the money-starved, Tom Watson, give a very romantic illusion to the text. The artistic movement created dark, enticing energy in a lot of people’s writings, especially in The Devil and Tom Watson.

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