“The Monkeys Paw” by W.W. Jacobs and “The Speckled Band” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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In this essay I will be comparing ‘The Monkeys Paw’ by W.W Jacobs and ‘The Speckled Band’ by Arthur Conan Doyle. They are both pre 1914 stories. I will be paying close attention to the way in which suspense and tension are generated by the writers.

Both of these stories are well known and popular with many. Although both are very different in genre. The Monkey’s Paw is a psychological horror story, which is meant to disturb the reader; horrific details are revealed which builds up a detailed image. The imagined prospect of Herbet’s body unsettles the reader simply through imagination rather than a gruesome reality. ‘The Speckled Band’ is a murder mystery, which is meant to intrigue the reader, and include the reader in the mystery. Conan Doyle and W.W Jacobs use these genres very well and create the mood that they need and keep the reader interested.

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‘The Monkeys Paw’ is written in a third person narrative. The effect that this type of narrative has on the reader is that it is much easier to create the tension, and the extent of the horror. It makes you feel detached. This helps to keep the reader guessing. It also has a greater psychological impact. ‘The Speckled Band’ is written in a first person narrative. It is narrated by Watson, this is very effective in this story, and this is because Watson does not solve the mystery immediately, so is left to work it out when Sherlock Holmes already believes he knows the solution to the mystery. This helps build the suspense in the story. Watson also sees all of the mystery unfold throughout the story, so the reader does not miss anything. It also makes you feel a part of the investigation, so you can work on the clues with Watson; this is a good sense of involvement.

In these stories there is a male character in each which could be seen as quite similar. Both characters contribute significantly to the suspense and tension within the stories. Sgt. Major Morris appears in ‘The Monkeys Paw’, and Dr. Grimesby Roylott in ‘The Speckled Band’. There are some subtle similarities such as Sgt. Major Morris being red faced and sharp eyed

‘At the third glass his eyes got brighter’. This shows he likes to drink and show he might have a more aggressive side. The suggestion that a number of drinks are required before the story can be told unsettles the reader and alerts us to the possible horror of the tale.

Dr Grimesby Roylott also enjoys a drink, and is shown to have a violent temper ‘Absolutely uncontrollable in his anger’ this quote shows us that he has a bad temper, and it also show the extent of his strength and how angry he can get. This adds an element of suspense to his character and we wonder as to what he is capable of.

There are certain similarities in them aswel, they both tell of exotic tales and have exotic tastes. Sgt. Major Morris brings the monkeys paw and tells of his wild and brave stories, showing that they are both well travelled.

‘He spoke of wild scenes and doughty deeds’ this quote shows his exotic tastes. This also makes him seem to be a hero, it is not expected for a hero to be afraid so if he is it must be something awful.

‘Drew the talisman from his pocket’ this quote backs up the idea of him having a taste for exotic items.

Dr, Grimsbey Roylott is shown throughout the story to have exotic tastes this line shows this ‘It’s a swamp adder…the deadliest snake in India’ this shows his exotic taste by having a strange rare animal from another country.

The female characters in each story can be compared and contrasted in this story. Both of the women are the usual products of their time, and are generally passive. Women of the pre 1914 era were expected to be polite and responsible for all of the household duties. To be seen and not heard.

‘She rose and began to set the supper’ this shows how Mrs White is takes charge In situations within the household. Towards the end of the story Mrs. White changes as at the start she was quite and polite where as at the end she is in hysteria

‘She cried wildly’ and ‘she said hysterically’ this shows how she is more wild and thoughtless at the end of the story.

Both of the writers use various techniques in their writing to build up suspense in their stories. The suspense and expectation is promoted by the description at the beginning of ‘The Monkeys Paw’

‘A bit of what you might call magic’, this shows how the writer begins to build the mystery and suspense at the beginning of the story. This is because magic arouses suspicion of the reader.

‘The three listeners leaned forward eagerly’ this quote show that the readers should be getting more interested as the characters in the book are. And the sense of expectation begins. When Morris retells the tale of ‘The Monkeys Paw’ has an impact on his listeners due to its impressive and exotic history.

Herbert’s frivolity contrasts with the seriousness of the situation a few times throughout the story

‘Said Herbert, with pretended horror’ this shows how Herbert does not take ‘The Monkeys Paw’ seriously, which in the end is to his peril.

Morris makes it clear that he takes the Monkeys Paw very seriously

‘If you keep it don’t blame me for what happens’ This shows that Morris takes the Monkeys Paw very seriously and does not wish for anyone to use it due to its great consequences. Yet he never reveals why there are such harsh consequences

At the start of ‘The Speckled Band’, Conan Doyle alerts the reader to a problem

‘He was a late riser as a rule’ this shows that there is a disruption to Holmes and Watson’s usual routine.

The writer also is quick to alert the reader to Holmes great deductive skills which he uses frequently throughout the story

‘The left arm of your jacket is splattered with mud in no less than seven places’ this shows a superb skill of deduction and alerts us to how good Holmes is at his job. We are alerted a few times that Dr Roylotts Violence is a way of life

‘Indulge in ferocious quarrels’ this show he enjoys violence as he does not just partake, but he indulges in the ferocious quarrels.

The Monkeys Paw is set so far-out because it adds to the suspense and tension. The writer also sets ‘The Monkeys Paw’ in a ‘beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places’ as it also adds suspense, but it also includes an element of horror. The enforced isolation has an impact on the reader as it creates a sense of helplessness.

In ‘The Speckled Band’ the writer describes the house as been run-down and neglected

‘The building was of grey, lichen blotched, with a high central portion’ the reader is likely to have done this because it will give the impression of the setting been scarier. The writer also does this when it comment on unrepaired breaches

‘….for unprepared breaches gaped in the old park wall’ this quote also adds the element of horror into the story.

‘….a hideous and distorted child, who threw itself on the grass and writhing limbs, and then ran swiftly across the lawn into the darkness’ the writer uses non-human animals to make the reader feel more frightened and exaggerate the situation to horrify the reader.

Weather is used in both stories to make them more interesting; it also, most importantly gives the reader a clearer picture in their head of what is happening in the story, and how, and where.

‘Without, the night was cold and wet…’ this quote is from ‘The Monkeys Paw’, it gives a miserable feeling, and shows that it is not a happy time at this point in the story, this is backed up by this quote

‘Pathway’s a bog, and the road’s a torrent…’

‘The Speckled Band’ does the opposite to this with its use of weather, as the comments on the weather creates a better mood and gives a sense of happiness

‘It was a perfect day, with a bright sun and a new fleecy clouds in heaven’ this quote should portray to the reader that it is a happy time in the story.

Sound is used successfully in both stories to build up tension and suspense. It is mostly used at the end of both stories. At the end of monkeys paw there is complete silence apart from the ticking of a clock, until a quite knock

‘Lay silently listening to the ticking of the clock…a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible’ this begins the tension and suspense

‘The knock was repeated’ this adds to the building tension. As the knock repeat, and get louder the tension increases more and more, and they become hysterical

‘It’s Herbert she screamed’ hysteria then gets to its worse when there is a number of loud knocks

‘A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house’ this is when the hysteria reaches its peak. Until silence is restored

‘The knocking ceased suddenly’ and then equilibrium is restored and there is once again a sense of stability.

Sound is used in ‘The Speckled Band’ to create that air of suspense, like ‘The Monkeys Paw’ there is equilibrium and it is disturbed by a quiet sound which then gets louder until it stops and the stability is restored.

‘a very gentle soothing sound’ this is when the silence is disturbed and the suspense is started. The climax of this is a very tense moment and is full of tension and suspense

‘There broke from the silence of the night the most horrible cry to which I have ever listened. It swelled up louder and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear and anger all mingled in the one dreadful shriek’ this is the climax of the tension and is very well written to make it a tense moment. Telling how silence is broken and it then goes on to describe in detail how dreadful the shriek is.

Light and dark symbolism is used compellingly, it helps to set the scene and make the reader more in touch with the story. The main use of the light and dark in ‘The Monkeys Paw’ is towards the end when it helps tell the reader about the mood at the point of this story

‘The darkness was oppressive’ this portrays the mood of the story very well as it implies how dark the mood is.

‘The street lamp flickered opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road’

Cite this page

“The Monkeys Paw” by W.W. Jacobs and “The Speckled Band” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (2017, Nov 01). Retrieved from


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