How does the author create suspense in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jacobs creates suspense through the use of setting, foreshadowing, and purposeful omission. The story takes place at the White residence, which is relatively isolated and located away from the nearest road. This removed location adds to the haunting atmosphere of the story and is significant to the plot. Jacobs also foreshadows the disastrous ramifications of wishing upon the magic monkey's paw through Sergeant-Major Moris's enigmatic story. The soldier alludes to the terrible consequences of wishing upon the monkey's paw by mentioning that the first owner's last wish was for death. He also mentions that a holy man put a curse on the paw to show "that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who tried to change it would be sorry." This ominous warning again foreshadows the horrific ending.

Despite the foreboding story, Jacobs purposely leaves out information regarding what the previous owners wished for and why Sergeant-Major Moris is pessimistic toward the paw. The fact that the paw moves, a piano slams, and Mr. White sees the image of an ape in the fire after making his first wish, contribute to the suspense of the story. After the Whites receive the two hundred pounds and learn of their son's death, the reader fully realizes the malevolent nature of the monkey's paw.

In part three, Jacobs creates suspense following Mr. White's second wish when the couple hears a loud knock at the door. By not revealing the cause of the knock, the reader can infer that Herbert has come back from the dead. During the climactic ending, Mrs. White feverishly attempts to unlock the door while her husband frantically searches for the paw to make his final wish. In this moment of suspense, the reader anticipates Mrs. White opening the door to discover her son's zombie-like corpse awaiting her. Fortunately, Mr. White is able to make his last wish, which prevents his wife from witnessing her son's decayed body.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Monkey's Paw, the author creates suspense through the mystery surrounding the monkey's paw.  When Sergeant Major Morris visits the Whites, he brings with him the very vague and mysterious story of the monkey's paw.  He tells the Whites that he wants to get rid of it, the Whites are very interested, especially Mr. White.

Sergeant Major Morris goes on to tell the Whites that the monkey's paw, which he produces, and shows them, has the ability to grant three people, three wishes.  And, Sergeant Major Morris was the second owner.

The author never tells us what Sergeant Major Morris wished for, nor does he tell us the first two wishes of the first owner.  We only know that his final wish was for death.

Further in the story, the suspense is built through the unknown quality of how the wishes made on the monkey's paw by Mr. White will be granted.  After the first wish for 200 pounds is granted through the accidental death of Herbert, the White's son, they are well aware of the evil, dark magic that the monkey's paw is capable of, however, they continue to use it.

When Mr. White and Mrs. White are scrambling at the end of the story, he looking for the monkey's paw on the floor, and she dragging a chair to the door to open it to let in whatever is on the other side, should be Herbert raised from the grave.  The suspense is very intense, it is great reading