“The Monkey’s Paw” Review

Table of Content

Fate is an irreversible and uncontrollable force that drives one’s life. People cannot choose nor change their fate; it was chosen for them before they were born. In W.W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” he explores the consequences of people attempting to change their fate. Fate becomes a theme in the story and is displayed throughout the entire plot. As the White family begins to use the wishes that the monkey’s paw gives them, they begin to learn the consequences of trying to alter the fate they have already been given.

In W.W. Jacob’s story “The Monkey’s Paw,” he utilizes the elements of foreshadowing, setting, and imagery to portray the theme of fate. Throughout the story, foreshadowing helps the reader grasp the theme of fate by alluding to events that will occur later in the story. When discussing the man who had the paw before him, Sergeant-Major Morris states, “I don’t know what the first two [wishes] were, but the third was for death” (Jacobs). This foreshadowing alludes to the White family that the paw will likely have adverse effects, and he warns the family not to take it. After warning them, the Sergeant-Major pitches the paw onto the fire and states “I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire like a sensible man” (Jacobs). The Sergeant-Major has already used his three wishes, so his warning to the White family should have been a sign that the paw will cause them more sorrow than it will happiness. The foreshadowing in this story tells the reader that the White family will learn that they should not have attempted to change their fate.

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By the same token, Jacob utilizes setting in the story in order to emphasize the theme of fate. When describing the setting on the night they received the paw, Jacob writes, “Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnum villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly.” Describing the weather as dark and stormy is a sign to the reader that the decisions made tonight will have poor consequences. The reader understands the danger of changing his or her fate, and the use of stormy weather emphasizes that theme. After wishing for 200 pounds, the family is optimistic the next day about when they will get their money. Jacob states, “In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table he laughed at his fears.” This ironic use of setting shows how the family is oblivious to the poor choice they have made but that later they will learn of their mistakes. After their son’s death, Mrs. White begs for her husband to wish Herbert back to life.

The night that he makes this wish, Jacob describes the room: “The room was in darkness, and the sound of subdued weeping came from the window.” Once again, the characters are in darkness which shows that the events that will unfold will likely bring severe consequences. Jacob’s use of changing weather emphasizes his theme that one should not change their fate. In addition, the vivid imagery in the story helps assist the theme of fate by describing the scenes as dark, dreary, and frightful. When being forced to wish Herbert back to life, the author uses the imagery of “His brow cold with sweat, he felt his way around the table and groped along the wall until he found himself in the small passage with the unwholesome thing in his hand” (Jacob).

This vivid imagery of Mr. White’s fear helps the reader understand his distress and facilitates the theme of fate by showing the consequences he will soon face. After wishing his son back to life, he begins to regret trying to once again change his fate and is scared of what will happen to him next. After his son, Herbert, begins knocking on the door, Jacob writes, “A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house… he heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish.” Due to this imagery of the moment he decides to kill his son once again, the reader truly sees the consequences of the paw. The theme of fate is completed after he has to wish for his own son’s death due to the ill effects of the monkey paw. In conclusion, throughout W.W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw,” the author’s use of foreshadowing, setting, and imagery reinforces the theme of fate throughout the story.

By using these three literary devices, the reader is able to understand that changing one’s fate comes with a price. White tactfully reinforces and builds his theme further by using these literary devices to aid him. Fate is an ominous force, and after reading the story, one learns that no matter how tempted people may be, they should never attempt to change their fate.

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