In the story "The Monkeys Paw", what are the literature themes?Such as internal and external conflicts, situational irony, verbal irony, foreshadowing

Expert Answers
laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Monkey's Paw" includes many literary themes and devices that W.W. Jacobs uses to make the reader uneasy as his story unfolds.

Jacobs uses the story of the first owner of the paw to foreshadow what will happen to Mr. White. He says that "The first man had his three wishes. [. . .] I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death." It's clear that something isn't right with the monkey's paw -- because most people would be happy over having wishes granted, not suicidal. Mr. White doesn't heed the warning, however.

Situational irony occurs when Mr. White wishes for money and instead his son is dead. The company pays the amount he asked for in recompense for Herbert's death. 

An external conflict is between Mrs. White and Mr. White. They have to decide whether or not to use the paw a second time and resurrect their son. Mr. White knows that Herbert was mangled in the machinery at work and that his corpse would have decomposed after being put in the ground. Still, he ultimately decides to give into his wife's pleas and wishes for Herbert to be alive again. 

An internal conflict is when Mr. White has to decide whether to cancel his second wish. He hears the banging on the door and knows that Herbert likely didn't come back the same -- so he ultimately reverses his wish and whoever is banging on the door disappears. 

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  1. internal conflict-Mr. White debating with himself as to whether he wanted to make that first wish. Mr. White's reluctance to wish his son back;
  2. external conflict-Mr. White wants Sgt. Major to give him the monkey's paw, but Sgt. Major throws it on the fire; Mr. and Mrs. White disagree about wishing on the paw again;
  3. situational irony-The reader knows before the White's that the stranger at the gate has something to do with their wish. Also we know the money he offers will be the $200 wished for.
  4. verbal irony-When Mrs. White tells her husband, " . . .I'm sure you'll when next time.";
  5. foreshadowing-Sgt. Major Morris turns pale when he claims he has already made his three wishes; Mr. White claims he has all he wants; Herbert plays the suspenseful music on the piano just prior to the wish.