How would “The Monkey’s Paw” be different if it were set in the present day?

If “The Monkey’s Paw” were set in the present day, the explanation of how the paw gained magical qualities, the British relationship with India, and the characterization of the sergeant major would be different. Overall, it would perhaps be challenging to relocate the story in the twenty-first century.

Expert Answers

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To a great extent, “The Monkey’s Paw” is closely connected with the time period in which the story is set. The underlying concept is belief in fate, and the story suggests that those who disregard magic do so at great peril. The idea of fate is closely connected with a stereotypical characterization of India as a region where people believe in magic. In contrast, England is shown as a place where people have confidence in logic and reason. This type of contrast is consistent with the orientalist perspective that presented East and West as having opposite worldviews.

One difference that could be included in a modern setting would be the geopolitical status of the regions where the British officer had served, along with many aspects of their characterization. At the turn of the twentieth century, Great Britain was a major imperial world power, with many Asian colonies. The idea that such places were “wild” and filled with “strange peoples” was used to justify British rule as part of a Christian, civilizing mission. On the Indian subcontinent, the countries of India and Pakistan were created in 1947, and Britain withdrew as a colonial ruler.

Along with such changes, there would be differences in Sergeant-Major Morris's position, as there is no occupying army in a colonial administration. If he served in the British military, he might be stationed at one of the bases currently operating in Nepal or the Indian Ocean.

The officer’s casual mention of the “fakir” would also need to be updated or the term replaced. It was originally associated with Muslims who renounced materialism for a life of devotion to Allah. In English, it has been applied to pious men of numerous religions other than Christianity. The negative connotations of the term are evident in Winston Churchill’s applying it to Mohandas Gandhi, whom he reviled as a “seditious … lawyer” who was “posing as a fakir.”

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 19, 2021
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