In "The Monkey's Paw," how essential is the setting? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

Technically "The Monkey's Paw" could take place anywhere, but the remote, dreary setting in England helps Jacobs make it a suspenseful gothic story. For instance, because the Whites are isolated, the knocking scene is more suspenseful than if they had lived in a crowded neighborhood. The way Jacobs sets the story in England rather than a colonized country like India also allows him to highlight clichés of orientalism and the supernatural.

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W. W. Jacobs’s short story “The Monkey’s Paw” could have technically taken place anywhere. However, setting the story in this remote English manor in cold weather allows him to create a suspenseful story that comments on clichés of orientalism. Consider how details like the Whites’ isolation and the gloomy weather are key aspects of the story that make it gothic. The dreary, remote setting heightens the stress and fear that the Whites, and the reader, experience. If the story took place in a crowded urban neighborhood, the scene with the knocking on the door would not be as suspenseful, because there would be many possible people who could be knocking, and it would not necessarily be Herbert.

Also, the fact that Jacobs sets the story in England allows him to highlight the way that Western countries, typically Western colonial powers, exoticized cultures of the lands that they colonized. The English characters in the story are fascinated that this artifact from India could be magical, which illustrates clichés and superstitions that Western people had about what they saw to be exotic faraway lands. If Jacobs had set the story somewhere other than the West, like in India, the characters’ curiosity about the paw would not have made as much sense.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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