The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

The Monkey's Paw book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write9,535 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

The story could've been set pretty much anywhere, but setting it in a remote part of England makes it all the more effective. The reason for this is that it makes for an intriguing contrast between the exotic world of the monkey's paw and the humdrum respectable world of middle-class English life inhabited by the White family.

Had the Whites been living abroad, say in a far-flung corner of the British Empire, then such an intriguing contrast could not have been drawn. In all likelihood the Whites would've heeded Sergeant-Major Morris's dire warnings about the mystical powers of his magic talisman.

But because the Whites live in England, they become more easily embroiled into the dark, mysterious world of the monkey's paw. To them, the paw represents something weird and exotic, and like most people, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to something they don't encounter in their daily lives.

It is because the monkey's paw appears to be nothing more than a piece of harmless mumbo-jumbo that the Whites make the fateful decision to make three wishes on it. Their geographical distance from India lulls them into a false sense of security. They think that because the kind of weird happenings of which Sergeant-Major Morris spoke don't take place in "civilized" countries that they are somehow immune from any dark powers the paw may have. This foolish assumption only makes subsequent events all the more frightening.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial