The Monkey’s Paw Of all the horror short stories I have read “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W Jacobs is by far the best for creating a suspenseful atmosphere/mood. I intend to show how W. W Jacobs creates this suspenseful atmosphere/mood through the analysis of setting, narrative, dialogue and character in order to deepen my understanding. “The Monkey’s Paw” tells the story of a small but close family, the Whites who are visited by Sergeant-Major-Morris a friend of Mr Whites who brings with him the monkey’s paw.
Sergeant-Major-Morris then tells how the owner of this magical monkeys paw is granted three wishes. Despite warning from Sergeant-Major-Morris, Mr White in greed wishes for two hundred pounds. We are then left wondering if Mr Whites wish will come true and before any money is found, Herbert White dies in a tragic machinery accident at work. Visited by a representative from the work the Whites receive two hundred pound in compensation, which we are then left to believe is the two hundred pound Mr White wished for and that the monkey’s paw is in fact magical.
After Herbert is laid to rest his mother, Mrs White, in desperation demands Mr White use one of two remaining wishes to wish their son alive again. Despite protest Mr White wishes and later knocking begins at the door, which may be Herbert White. Mrs White escapes her husbands restrain and dashes to the door while Mr White searches rapid...
ly to find the monkey’s paw in order to wish his son dead again to prevent his wife seeing her son’s tattered, torn body. In this extremely dramatic climax Mrs White finally gets the bolt off and ready to rip the door open just as Mr White finds the paw and uses his third and final wish.
The street was deserted and Mrs White was left in devastation, Mr White in relief and we are left in a state of uncertainty, who was knocking on the door? What was Mr White’s final wish? And was all this the result of the monkey’s paw? I believe W. W Jacobs use of setting is superb for producing a suspenseful atmosphere in this short story. He sets the story in rural England in the early 1900s, so there wasn’t any electricity, the area was isolated, desolate, miserable and there were only two houses in the whole area and Mr White lets us see his feelings towards the area very early on: “That’s the worst of living so far out… f all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. ” Mr White’s use of “of all” shows just how badly he regards the area that out “of all” the other areas out there he feels his is the worst. By describing the area as such W. W Jacobs paints images in our heads of eerie, scary, ghost like little village and this adds to the feeling of uncertainty and fear of what is going to happen. Jacobs then tells of the atmosphere within the White’s house and by doing so allows the reader to see th
clear comparison from outside to inside.
Through fine use of narrative, Jacobs, describes the atmosphere in the house as: “The fire burned brightly… Father and son were at chess/ the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire. ” He sets a lovely atmosphere, “the fire burned brightly” symbols the warmth and light in the house, father and son playing chess with mother close by knitting shows it is a close family, and its a peaceful carefree environment, everyone at ease yet all this danger, darkness, rain and isolation is surrounding the White’s and their peace.
This comparison in atmosphere creates a mood of suspense and discomfort, and we find ourselves wondering what would happen, what would be the consequences if something from the outside that dangerous outside got inside the White’s home. This thought, the difference in atmosphere and in mood unsettles the reader and is superb for creating suspense. Jacobs excellent use of narrative also assists to create an atmosphere of fear and suspense. In the opening when narrating Jacobs use of word choice is fantastic and adds to the fearful and dangerous atmosphere by using words like: “Possessed…. harp unnecessary perils that provoked comment…. the words died…. he hid a guilty grin. ” All of these words that are particularly used by Jacobs all carry with them a sense of danger and are used almost in a subliminal fashion to strike fear and danger into us without really being aware or in control. Through analysing the narrative dialogue in greater detail it brings our attention to the great detail Jacobs uses and how precise he was when building up the catalyst within the story, Sergeant-Major-Morris.
Before his introduction we feel Sergeant-Major-Morris is a mysterious man right from the beginning the Whites are waiting and waiting for their guest, but why we ask what part has he to play?. W. W Jacobs fine description of Sergeant-Major-Morris adds to our state of suspense: “A tall, burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage” This very exotic, articulate description proves he has a big part to play instead of using simple terms such as, old or rosy faced, Jacobs uses words like “rubicund” and “visage” which draws our attention to this character and adds o this mood of suspense as we are left asking ourselves what part has this mysterious man have to play in this story, what is the purpose of his visit and this man has come from the dark and dangerous outside into the warmth and peaceful inside of the Whites home what has he brought with him?. Sergeant-Major-Morris is the key character for suspense, he starts of mysterious, we do not know much about him, he has came from the outside into the Whites home we do not know exactly know why.
But then we find out, the monkey’s paw, everything the visitor states leaves us in a state of suspense, we do not know if it is true, we do not know the consequences of this “magical” paw and all this makes this outsider bring a sense of suspense, danger and uncertainty to this
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