What is an example of symbolism in "The Monkey's Paw?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One good example of symbolism in the story is the fire. While it plays no part in the second and third parts of the story, it is seen "burning brightly" throughout the first part, and is connected with the warmth and happiness of the White family; although they are not rich, they are comfortable, and Mr. White initially says that he has "everything he needs." While the family is happy, the fire is present and seems to be a symbol of their good fortune and unconscious happiness. The fire is never mentioned after its last appearance:

He sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in it. The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement. It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it.
(Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw," gaslight.mtroyal.ca)

This is just after the first wish; the Whites will have their wish granted, but in tune with the theme of fate, it will be in a way that they never intended. The fire's last appearance is seemingly one of prediction and foreboding; it cannot represent comfort any longer, because the natural order of things has been disturbed. Instead, it appears scary, and this serves as a warning of the sad events to come. The fire is then replaced by descriptions of guttering candles, throwing shadows across the walls; this shows the cold, fearful state in which the household now resides.


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