The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

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In The Monkey's Paw, how do Mr. White's and Sergeant Morris' points of view create suspense?

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Lenny Wiza, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sergeant-Major Morris is worldly and has seen a lot in his more than twenty years in military service. Because he has such vast and varied experience and has traveled widely, the gravity with which he regards the monkey's paw piques the reader's interest. Since he doesn't make explicit his reasons for throwing the monkey's paw on the fire, readers understand that something disconcerting has occurred as a result of the spell the fakir put on it.

Mr. White's enthrallment with the possibility of having three wishes granted also builds suspense. His situation is very relatable, and the extended conversation about what to wish for builds apprehension in readers. His declaration that the monkey's paw moved in his hand after he makes his first wish adds to the tension that begins building when the Whites take possession of the paw. Mr. White's rush to utter the third and final wish before his wife gets to the door provides the last suspenseful flourish at the story's end.

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The first way that suspense is created, particularly by Sergeant Morris, is that he only tells a part of the story. He informs his audience that the first man who used his three wishes with the monkey's paw wished at last for death, implying that something must have gone terribly wrong. But he gives no details and the reader has no insight into the story thanks to the position of the narrator. So the reader is left to create the details or possibilities on their own, helping to lend the story a significant amount of suspense.

Mr. White too adds more suspense by leaving so much up to the reader to discern, not giving clear voice to his thoughts and allowing the reader to figure out the rest. There is also a moment in the chess game where Mr. White makes dangerous and ill-considered moves, foreshadowing the poorly thought out wish that starts the main action of the story in motion.

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