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Analysis of The Devil and Daniel Webster

Stephen Vincent Benet’s tale “The Devil and Daniel Webster” portrays a noble guy battling the Devil and many of the darkest figures in American history to save his neighbor, Jabez Stone’s soul. The story describes human beings’ greed for money and power at the expense of their souls. The author illustrates the difficulty of the struggles between moral and immoral, heaven and hell. Bennet utilizes extensive tropes such as setting, conflict, characterization, themes, metaphors, imagery, and irony to convey to the reader that good always overcomes evil when fought with moral features.

The title of the short story itself is a trope motif. “Deal with the devil” is a symbolic subject used by authors, TV shows, poems, and books throughout generations. The trope motif signifies a repetitive term used to condemn an individual who has collaborated with evil. The author’s demonstration of the character Jabez Stone depicts an unfortunate farmer who makes a deal with the Devil because of poverty. The terms of the agreement allow Jabez seven years of prosperity in exchange for his soul (Benét 471). The trope motif illustrates elementality to Christian traditions consisting of a pact between an individual and the Devil. The individuals trade their souls for wealth, fame, youth, and others. This signifies repetitive themes throughout generations and their character interactions (Baudrillard 26). The author uses motif to increase depth, convey meaning, and improves the audience’s comprehension of the text. From the start, the audience will know what the story depicts, establishing their mood when reading. Furthermore, motif emphasizes themes and various narrative elements in the story. “Deal with the Devil” acted as clues to readers, setting the tone and conjuring a certain mood within the readers. The motif enhances metaphor and serves as a cautionary tale on the risks of unrestrained capitalism and the mistreatment of workers, as stated by Walter Benjamin (Benjamin 33).

Bennet uses settings to enhance the theme of evil, good, and patriotism. It does not only apply to physical locations in America but the settings inside the souls of many of the characters. During the trial, Daniel Webster argues that the Devil has no business in America and cannot coerce Jabaz into giving up his soul and servitude to a foreign prince. “We battled New England over that in 1812, and we will battle them once more…” (Benet 56). The Devil then declares that he existed in this universe long before Daniel Webster or even the United States of America. “I was present when the first Indian suffered a wrong. when the initial slaver issued a call for…” This enhances the theme since it mentions his initial existence before everything else, promoting the context of the place, time, and geographic location where the story takes place. This advances the audience’s experience and develops the plot and mood of the characters.

The author uses themes to depict the central idea of the struggles between good and evil and the notion that good always trumps evil. The author exploits themes to portray temptation, bad, good, greed, and the importance of one’s choices. The short story signifies a cautionary tale and the consequences of choices. The character of Jabez Stone, originally enticed by his greed for money and power, illustrates the dangers and emphasizes the risks associated with the desire for power and money. However, as the story progresses, it becomes distinct that Jabez bears a heavy price and that his acts have consequences (Benét 471). This conveys to the readers and acts as a warning against the dangers of temptation and avarice and stresses the need for us to have more patience when things in life don’t go as planned. The story of Iblis (Satan) warns of the risks of temptation and defiance of God. Similar to the short story, Iblis was once a revered and honorable angel, but he grew arrogant and refused to submit to Adam as commanded by God. Iblis was consequently expelled from heaven and transformed into the Devil, encouraging people to sin and turn away from God (Al-Baqarah, 2:34). According to most religious texts, if Eve had not succumbed to temptations to eat the forbidden fruit, God and the Devil would not be in conflict and humanity could not be constantly subjected to the tests of life. Life’s difficulties entail resisting enticement and being determined to do good deeds (Quran, Surah Al-A’raf 7:19. The Devil is commonly seen and represented by emblems of temptation, and authors frequently utilize these figures to emphasize the dangers of giving in to one’s desires (Benét 471). The story underlines the essence of submission to God’s will and the repercussions associated with defying God due to temptations from the Devil to the readers.

Characterization in the story plays a crucial role in developing the story. The author utilizes depictions befitting the Devil and Daniel Webster. For instance, the characterization of the Devil portrays the personality of a charming individual who takes benefits from the flaws and weaknesses of others by enticing them into making shady deals. Mr. Scratch is shown in “The Devil and Daniel Webster” as a delightful and manipulative character who efficaciously coaxes Jabez Stone into accepting seven years of prosperity in exchange for his soul. The characterization depicts the personality of the Devil, who persuades Jabez to sell his soul and enjoy riches for seven years. Mr. Scratch’s characterization shows a wicked villain skilled in manipulation and takes advantage of the needs of the individuals they deal with. Bennet used characterization to help the readers comprehend and picture evilness. It also allowed the readers to understand the personality of the Devil and that of Jabez stone. Furthermore, Jabez Stone is portrayed as a poor man suffering and struggling to make ends meet. The author also illustrates the economic difference of the author, who was made Senator of New Hampshire after the deal with the Devil.

The author uses imagery to expand the readers’ story experience by appealing to their sensitivity. It generates a visual image of a scene and character appealing to the audience. Bennet utilizes imagery to depict the Devil as an agency of the unnatural. The imagery used to tell the narrative suggests that the Devil’s most distinguishing quality that can help humans recognize him is that he stands for the antisocial order of things. The first clue that the Devil is an agent of chaos and the unnatural is portrayed when Jabez doesn’t like his smile since there are too many teeth and they are all a touch too white. Later, he references the Devil’s otherness when he accuses him of being a “foreign prince” (Benet). To further establish his presence as being against the natural order regardless of order, the Devil acknowledges that Northerners and Southerners consider him to be a member of their own regions. Moreover, the Devil contradicts the natural order since he can summon blue instead of red flames. The author uses imagery to denote the Devil’s unnaturalness by improving the readers’ experience by generating a visual representation of the Devil.

Bennet utilizes foreshadowing to generate the audience tension and suspense in the story. “But the very devil got into that fiddle of mine…” (Bennet) foreshadows the coming of the Devil to distract the joys of Daniel’s treasure. Bennet uses foreshadowing to portray and suggest the doom of the upcoming events in the story. The line warns the audience that the Devil is coming to claim Daniel’s soul because he signed a legal document.

The author vividly uses various tropes to demonstrate and enhance the story’s plot. For instance, it uses imagery, foreshadowing, themes, settings, and motifs. These are crucial elements in literature because they create and lead to the development of the plot. In addition, the features also create depth and graphic visual presentations with which readers can experience and conjure up specific moods befitting the story. In conclusion, the “Deal with the Devil” motif has been a recurring theme in prose, legends, and popular culture for years. By highlighting the risks of temptation, greed, and the consequences of one’s choices, these tales serve as cautionary tales against giving in to one’s desires. They also stress the value of verbal exchange and the idea that the Devil can be repelled verbally. There are several ways to deduce these tales; some regard them as accounts of the evils of power and prosperity, while others see them as warnings against the dangers of greed and temptation. These principles and the lessons they are supposed to teach are as ageless as the themes and stories surrounding them. It’s crucial to be conscious of our actions and withstand the temptation to avoid striking deals with the Devil (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Work Cited

  • Benét, Stephen Vincent. “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”, 1937, pp. 471-480.
  • “The Myth of Faust.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,
  • Quran, Surah Al-A’raf 7:19.
  • Quran, Surat Al-Baqarah 2:153
  • “Deal with the Devil.” TV Tropes,
  • Marlowe, Christopher. “Doctor Faustus.” Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. “Faust.” Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Gounod, Charles. “Faust.” Metropolitan Opera,
  • “Lucifer.” Netflix,
  • Baudrillard, Jean. “The Consequences of Desire.” Stanford University Press, 1988.
  • Benjamin, Walter. “The Corruption of Capitalism.” The University of California Press, 1985.


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