illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs
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How did the author use irony, allusion, suspense, symbolism, and foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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The more I examine this question, the more I realize it is way too big of an answer for just one question. For future reference, questions pertaining to so many different literary devices should probably be broken down into individual questions, each addressing a different literary device. As you can see, my first answer, about foreshadowing, took up so much space I didn't have room for anything else!

So this time, let's look at suspense. Suspense is a device used to create tension. Suspense is the part in a movie where you're sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, dying to find out what happens next. Jacobs uses suspense after Mrs. White wishes for her son to be alive again. Jacobs builds tension by describing the sounds of knocking and that Mrs. White couldn't open the door. The author prolongs the scenario, forcing the reader to hang on, wondering what is going to happen when the door finally opens.

The following passage illustrates a moment of suspense: "'The bolt," she cried, loudly. "Come down. I can't reach it.' But her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house, and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey's paw..."

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This is a really big question. I'm not sure I can answer all of it in one shot. We're dealing with five major literary devices, each of which requires a decent amount of explaining.

Foreshadowing, a technique used by authors to indicate to the reader events that might occur later in a story, occurs at very first in the beginning of "The Monkey's Paw" when Mrs. White describes the setting; the place in which the White family resides. "'Of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent. I don't know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses in the road are let, they think it doesn't matter.'" This foreshadows negative events or scary events. She describes a gloomy setting, perfect for a horror story. In addition, they live in a hard-to-get-to place, meaning that if something bad were to happen, help might not be able to reach them. Over all, her description of the environment gives the reader a feeling of spookiness and discomfort.

In addition, bad events are foreshadowed when the general talks about how he came into possession of the paw. "'The first man had his three wishes. Yes,' was the reply; 'I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That's how I got the paw.'" This foreshadows something bad is going to happen if anyone tries to wish on the paw, and it is clear at this point in the story that Mr. White intends to wish on the paw.

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