Literary Devices in The Devil and Tom Walker
“The Devil and Tom Walker” is a fictional sketch, a genre that Irving invented for this story. A fictional sketch is a story that relates local legends or beliefs using a skeptical narrator. Using fictional narrator Geoffrey Crayon, Irving is able to relate an unbelievable story without having to explain the supernatural or skeptical elements of his tale.
Irving essentially created the genre that "The Devil and Tom Walker'' is written in—a fictional sketch. The fictional narrator, Geoffrey Crayon, relates and views local legends with good-natured skepticism. This devices performs several functions: First, it allows Irving to create more distance between himself and his readers. Second, Irving can tell fantastic stories and present the supernatural as actual beings without needing to explain them as natural phenomena. Finally, readers do not have to believe that Tom Walker actually deals with the devil; they can simply believe that the legend says it happened.
Geoffrey Crayon, a character created by Irving, narrates this story as well as others in Tales of a Traveller. Crayon's reference to the old stories enhances this tale's status as a "legend." Irving uses this second-hand narration to give his short story a long, local history, which is a primary trait of a folktale. By using Crayon as a first-person narrator, Irving gives the impression that the reader is being told a story in the same way most folktales are passed down from generation to generation.