What mood is set in the first 6 paragraphs of "The Monkey's Paw"?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The opening paragraphs of W. W. Jacobs' chilling short story, "The Monkey's Paw," sets the mood for the rest of the horror tale. The setting is described as a windy "night (that) was cold and wet." Mr. White calls his home "of all the beastly, slushy out-of-the way places, this is the worst." While playing chess with his son, Mr. White makes a "fatal mistake" as they await the arrival of a guest; they wonder if he will make the trek on such an ugly night. The road and pathway to the house are "a bog," and Mr. White "bawls" with "unlooked-for violence." Jacobs' use of such a terrible night in a remote locale, along with language that exudes nervous exasperation, sets the stage for the more horrible scenes that will come later.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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To me, the mood set in these first six paragraphs (up to the end of the chess game and what Mr. White says when he loses) is a pretty fun mood, but mixed with a few signs of danger to come.

I say that it is fun because the weather outside is bad but the family is having a fun time.  The father is playing chess kind of badly and then trying to distract his son so he won't notice that he can win.  That seems amusing and fun.

But the weather is bad and that's ominous.  And Mr. White does get mad and complains about what their neighborhood's like (although that seems like it's just an excuse to complain).

If I didn't know the ending, I wouldn't think much of the bad stuff, though.  I would think it was a fun mood that is being set.

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