The Monkey's Paw Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography and a Free Quiz on The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs.
"The Monkey's Paw" is W.W. Jacobs' most famous story and is considered to be a classic of horror fiction. It first appeared in Harper's Monthly magazine in 1902, and was reprinted in his third collection of short stories, The Lady of the Barge, also published in 1902. The story has since been published in many anthologies, adapted for the stage, and made into films. "The Monkey's Paw" was well received when Jacobs first published it; the story garnered rave reviews from some of the most important critics writing at the turn of the century. The story was also very popular with readers.
Like O. Henry, Jacobs was famous during his lifetime for writing a particular type of story rather than for any particular work. Similar to O. Henry's stories, Jacobs' tales are tightly constructed, humorous stories that usually revolve around simple surprise-ending plots Many of his stories are set on the waterfronts and docks of London, which Jacobs knew from his own childhood.
In addition to humor, Jacobs explored the macabre in several of his tales. "The Monkey's Paw" is probably the best example of this. The story opens with the White family spending a cozy evening together around the hearth. An old friend of Mr. White's comes to visit them. Sergeant-Major Morris, home after more than twenty years in India, entertains his hosts with exotic stories of life abroad. He also sells to Mr. White a mummified monkey's paw, said to have had a spell put on it by a holy man that will grant its owner three wishes. Morris warns the Whites not to wish on it at all—but of course they do, with horrible consequences.
Jacobs uses foreshadowing, imagery and symbolism in this story to explore the consequences of tempting fate. His careful, economical creation of setting and atmosphere add suspense to the tale, while his use of dialogue and slang (another Jacobs trademark) help readers to feel that the characters are genuine.
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The Theme of Greed in "The Monkey's Paw" Essay
2340 Words10 Pages
Greed is a sin of excess that every single human being has at least a little bit of. When someone has the opportunity to get as much of something as they possibly can, they will go to great lengths to get everything out of it. In the story “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs, the White family experiences a big test of greed, and they even tamper with their fate to get it. Before the Whites even knew about the paw, they were living a normal, but decent, lifestyle that got them by day-to-day without any troubles. Once they received this one idol in their life that could grant any three wishes that they could possibly think of, their mind set was altered and their greediness to change their fate kicked into play. Jacobs uses themes of…show more content…
He is also described as a reckless thinker, which is proven in the opening scene of the story when he moves his king “into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment. This recklessness leads him to tempt fate with the monkey's paw, endangering his family as a result” (DISCovering Authors). Mr. White’s son, Herbert, also plays a smaller, but huge part of this story. Herbert is the kind of person that likes to be a little bit silly and joke around about anything. After Sergeant-Major Morris leaves their cozy home, Herbert starts to tease his mother and father telling them that they should make the their wish and to wish for money. After they wish for the money, it is kind of ironic that he starts to make fun of the wish because it has not showed up yet, even though his death ends up being the factory that gives his parents the two hundred pounds that they wished for. Herbert jokes around by saying “Well, I don't see the money,’ said his son as he picked [the paw] up and placed it on the table, 'and I bet I never shall” (1282). And Herbert never did see it, because he was the money. Mrs. White is described as “a calm, reserved woman. In the story's first scene, Jacobs notes that Mr. White's chess moves are so ‘radical’ that they ‘even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire’—as if drastic events must take place in order for her to even speak” (DISCovering Authors). Mrs. White is the common