The Monkey’s Paw was written in 1902, a significant time in British history. At this point in history British rule governed a quarter of the Earth’s population. It was known as the British Empire and India is just one of the countries included. In Jacobs’ story the Sergeant Major who went to India to work in a colony came home after more than twenty years, entertains the White family with exciting and gruel some stories. Thousands of British men went to the East to learn about cultures and traditions. As they returned they brought interesting stories and souvenirs. The character just returned from India was a regular feature in British popular fiction at the turn of the century. Gothic genre stories were popular in those times. WW Jacobs was a Londoner who lived near the river and so he often included sailors & travellers in his stories.
The Monkey’s Paw’s setting and content makes the story a gothic horror story. During these times Gothic Horror stories were very popular. Frankenstein and Dracula were the most well known stories. These types of stories usually involve features such as ghosts & curses whilst often the locations are castles & haunted mansions. The Monkeys Paw fits into these conditions because their location is where no-one can help them and there are curses involved in the story which makes the story more haunting and readers will read on as the reader wants to see if the White family stays alive or dies.
The Monkeys Paw is about an old mummified Paw which holds a spell put on it by an old fakir (holy man). He wanted people to realise that fate ruled the world. The spell gave three wishes to three people. An old sailor comes back from India and goes to Mr White’s house.
Mr White said ‘If you don’t want it then give it to me’. The sailor replied ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Mr White wishes for 200 pounds but what awaits him is fear.
In ‘The Monkeys Paw’, WW Jacobs creates suspense through his use of setting. At the start of the story the weather is cold and wet as it says, ‘Without, the night was cold and wet’. This creates suspense because more scary and dangerous things happen in the dark and nobody can help them if anything bad happens.
The house is located in the middle of nowhere as it says ‘Of all the beastly, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst’. In contrast to the scene outside, inside the house, the book describes it as ‘the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly’, yet a dark mood is made by the conversation between the White family and the Sergeant Major. ‘It’s just a bit of what you might call magic’, on hearing the words magic and monkey’s paw, the three listeners leaned forward eagerly. It creates atmosphere because as he mentions a spell was put on it by an old fakir. The character creates suspense in the story through the things they do and say. When the Sergeant-Major arrives he says ‘It had a spell put on it by an old fakir’. He wanted to show that fate ruled the world, and that 3 separate men could have 3 separate wishes from it. That quote grabs Mr. White’s and everybody’s attention because he said 3 wishes can be made but he also said ‘The man before me, his last wish was for death’. Now that line creates tension as he makes the reader ask himself, ‘What did he do, that he asked for death?
Herbert makes a joke about the Paw when his father wished for 200 pounds. He says ‘I expect you’ll find the money tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed’ as he did not take the Paw seriously, because he doesn’t know that he is going to die.
Mr. White believes in the curse because he is the one who made the wish and as the Sergeant Major said, he said the same. ‘It twisted in my hand like a snake.’ That creates tension because the reader would now realise that the curse is true and they
would think that what misfortune is in store for the White family as the Major said ‘every wish comes with a price’.
At the end Mrs. White doesn’t believe in the curse. She says ‘it’s like Arabian Nights’ creating a calm mood but as the first wish comes true and her son dies she starts believing in it. Then she wants to wish Herbert back but Mr. White is scared. She now starts to create a frightening mood because Herbert has been dead for a week and he would be a zombie by now.
The structure of the story keeps on changing. When the Sergeant-Major came it was a strange mood because he said ‘the third man’s wish was for death making the reader think, why death? The next day it was calm as it says in the book ‘There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked the previous the night’. It is trying to say that yesterday’s and today’s mood is completely different. During the time when Herbert died, the mood became fearful and strange as the man says ‘He is hurt, but he is not in any pain’. A week after Herbert died it was unsettled as it says they had nothing to talk about. The night when ‘Mr. White stretched his hand and found himself alone’, during that time it was dark because besides Mr White being alone, it was at night time. At the end when Herbert comes back the mood is frightening because Mr White says ‘For God’s sake, you’re not going to let that thing in’ as he is scared because now that Herbert is a zombie.
The language used in the story is complicated. For e.g. ‘The candle end… was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceilings and walls, until, with a flicker, it expired. These words suggest that there’s an image of darkness, shadows and death because expired represents going out or death. The quotes ‘he stood motionless, his breath suspended’ show that the old man is terrified. When the old man is scrambling for the Paw, trying to stop the entry of his dead son in to the house, the author uses short sentences and as you read your breath quickens it builds
up tension and action. ‘A perfect fusillade of knocks’ that suggests the knocks are surrounding Mr. White and a pattern is
occurring and going all through the house. He also creates more suspense as he says that it starts quiet. As the first knock occurred he said it ‘sounded on the door’ then a ‘third knock sounded through the house’. It gets louder and faster and then it stopped. ‘The knocking suddenly ceased’.
Throughout the story WW Jacobs creates suspense and tension as he uses the right words and type of sentences at the right time.
In the “Monkey’s Paw” I have discovered that WW Jacobs builds up suspense and tension by using different techniques. He is successful at building the suspense as he makes want to read on to see what happens.