How are metaphors and imagery used in the story?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. W. Jacobs uses metaphors and imagery to help set the mood and tone of "The Monkey's Paw." For example, Mr. White describes the weather outside as "beastly, slushy, . . . [the] Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent." This description provides dark and wet images that parallel the mood that will accompany Major Morris when he arrives and shares the story of the paw. Creepy stories are always made better if they're told on dark and stormy nights, right? Not only that, but after Mr. White makes his first wish, the story states the following:

"Outside, the wind was higher than ever, and the old man started nervously at the sound of a door banging upstairs. A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three, which lasted until the old couple rose to retire for the night."

Notice again that this passage uses the weather outside, specifically the wind, to communicate a connection between the use of the dark magic, or the supernatural, with the natural world. This device helps to increase suspense in the story while also deepening the creepy mood. Also, notice that "silence" creates a "depressing" mood, which adds to the tension created by the possibility of dark wishes being made through the magic of the paw. Later on, Mr. White even says that to make a wish with the talisman "is foolish and wicked." Thus, wishes in this story are evil and do not bring happiness. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Metaphor and imagery are used in "The Monkey's Paw" to enhance the horror of this story.  The amputated paw of a monkey is rather macabre of itself, but when it is taken by the old soldier and first thrown into the fire, the metaphor of a "talisman" suggests evil. As the story progresses, so does the metaphor of evil extend to the evil repercussions of greed and the desire to defy Fate. 

Alone before the fire, Herbert, the son, has a presentiment of his death in the "simian and horrible face." Yet, despite this disturbing image and a shiver running through him, Herbert dismisses his presentiment.  And, so, the White family first make a wish for wealth; then, when the wish proves fateful for the son, they wish to defy their fate.  This wish ends the macabre results of their second wish, foreshadowed in the "postman's knock" (imagery) and the image of the "mysterious man" who pauses three times at their gate.  The ghastly image of Herbert having been "caught in the machinery"  dazes Mrs. White as she contemplates the loss of her only child.  Mr. and Mrs. White must make a final wish, relenting to the course of Fate and its macabre events.

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The Monkey's Paw

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