In The Monkey's Paw story,  What are the qualities reflected in the actions and/or thoughts of the individual figures in the plot? Are the characters dynamic (changing) or static (unchanging)?

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jdslinky eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Monkey's Paw," by W.W. Jacobs, the qualities reflected in the actions and/or thoughts of the individual figures are both static and dynamic.

Sergeant Major Morris is a man who has seen a lot in his travels; however, his feelings about the paw remain the same, making him a static character. He never falters from the feeling that the paw is dangerous, and warns his listeners of its peril. He even goes so far as to throw the paw on the fire in an attempt to keep them safe from it; however, Mr. White fetches it out. "He took the paw, and dangling it between his forefinger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. White, with a slight cry, stooped down and snatched it out," (2).

Mr. White is initially intrigued by the paw, but eventually comes to fear its powers, making him a dynamic character. After listening to Morris's tales, he views the paw as an item of fancy, something to be entertained by. However, after his first wish (for 200 pounds) is granted (because of a compensatory gift following his son's death), he envisions the paw as a sinister talisman. "His brow cold with sweat, he felt his way round the table, and groped along the wall until he found himself in the small passage with the unwholesome thing in his hand," (6).

Young Herbert White is not around long enough to develop his character or change; therefore, he is a static character. His main personality trait is that of a jokester. He playfully challenges (and beats) his father at chess, teases him about the paw and the subsequent wish, and leaves for work the next day with a playful admonishment to his parents, "Well, don't break into the money before I come back," (4). It is his death that brings about the wished-for 200 pounds.

Mrs. White illustrates perhaps the most dramatic change, as she goes from disbelieving the effects of the paw to relying on them, making her a dynamic character. In the beginning of the story, she behaves as though the paw is a joke, "Sounds like the Arabian Nights," said Mrs. White, as she rose and began to set the supper. 'Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?" (2). However, after the 200 pounds is delivered with the news of her beloved Herbert's untimely death, she comes to depend on the paw's powers: "Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again," (6).

The reader never really knows if the paw works or if the happenings in the lives of the Whites are coincidental, but Herbert is definitely dead and will remain so.

Read the study guide:
The Monkey's Paw

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