Critical Analysis Essay of Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw
Published in 1902, The Monkey’s Paw is a short story written by W.W. Jacobs. It is regarded as one of the author’s best work. The story revolves around a monkey’s paw which is said to have mysterious powers wherein the owner gets three wishes. The three wishes however, come with an huge price. Within the narrative, the author made use of important themes such as the dangers of greed and the consequences of interfering with fate. These themes are symbolized by recurring motifs and objects in the story.
Greed is one of the most prominent themes in the story (Korba 24). More particularly, the author shows how wishing more than what you need can be dangerous. Many people only see the benefits of wishing; but little do they know that its benefits always come with a heavy price. The misfortunes of the Whites, for example, is a result of wanting more than what they need. Mr. White already has everything he needs – a comfortable home and a happy family. However, he still decided to use the monkey’s paw to wish for money he does not need in the first place. As Jacobs mentions, making one harmless wish only increases the desire to make another wish, one that is more outlandish than the first. Herbert for instance, wished for only two hundred pounds, but after receiving money for Herbert’s death, Mrs. White believed that the monkey’s paw can grant her whatever her heart desires. As such, she forces her husband to wish for Herbert’s life back, a wish which is far more heavier than the first one. This therefore indicates that a person who holds power in his/her hands can develop an appetite for greed. And this greed can only lead to unexpected and harmful consequences. Mr. Herbert understands this very clearly, hence, he made another wish that will prevent his wife’s wish from coming true. The horrors of the consequences are best expressed in the final passage of the story:
“He found the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish. The knocking ceased suddenly… a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road” (Jacobs 45).
Another important theme in this story is fate. The consequences of interfering with fate are symbolized by the monkey’s paw. In the story, the paw has the power to grant the owner everything that it could possibly wish. This makes the paw so alluring. However, many people fail to see that this is but one facet of its power. Many forget the price that they have to pay for interfering with fate. This is exemplified by the character of Mr. White. At the start of the story, Sergeant Major Morris explains that people’s life are in fact, governed by fate; hence it is dangerous for us to meddle with it. He throws the monkey’s paw into the fore, but Mr. White quickly retrieves it despite of his friend’s warning. It is in here that one can see that Mr. White was blinded by the power of the monkey’s paw; and this caused him to forget that it is important to let fate take its course (Black 115).
Based on the points provided, it can be concluded that the W.W. Jacobs made use of two important themes in this story. More particularly, he used greed and fate as his main themes. The concepts were evident in the characters and objects present in the story. Greed for example is symbolized by the characters of Mr. and Mrs. White; while the concept of greed is represented by the monkey’s paw.
Black, A. Investigating the strange and mysterious. NY: ABC-CLIO, 2008
Jacob, W. The Monkey’s Paw. IL: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1997
Korba, J. The Monkey’s Paw. NY: Benchmark Education, 2007