What are some elements of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw"?

An element of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw" occurs when Sergeant-Major Morris warns the Whites about the dangerous power that the monkey's paw has to bring back luck to everyone who owns it. Unfortunately, the Whites ignore Morris's warnings and use the monkey's paw anyway with disastrous consequences.

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A great example of foreshadowing comes early on in the story when Sergeant-Major Morris consigns the monkey's paw to the fire. He's been telling the Whites about the malevolent power that this strange object has and about its magical properties that have brought nothing but bad luck to everyone who's...

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A great example of foreshadowing comes early on in the story when Sergeant-Major Morris consigns the monkey's paw to the fire. He's been telling the Whites about the malevolent power that this strange object has and about its magical properties that have brought nothing but bad luck to everyone who's ever come into possession of it. Unfortunately for Morris, the Whites don't pay any attention to his warnings; they seem to think that the monkey's paw is all just a load of mumbo-jumbo, nothing more than a bit of harmless fun.

Sensing that he's piqued the Whites' curiosity, and not in a good way, and that he's failed to convince them of the dangerous consequences of using the monkey's paw, Sergeant-Major Morris tries a more direct approach. He throws the paw onto the fire in the hope that this evil talisman will be destroyed once and for all. Tragically for the Whites, Mr. White retrieves the charred but still intact monkey's paw. He and his family are going to have some fun with it. (Or so they think, anyway).

This particular scene foreshadows both the evil consequences that will follow from the Whites' use of the paw and also the foolishness that they will display in ignoring the dire warnings given to them by Sergeant-Major Morris.

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There are lots of examples of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw." Firstly, in the opening of the story, Mr. White says, "Hark at the wind." By drawing attention to the wind outside, he foreshadows the wind which blows through the house at the end of the story after Mrs. White has wished for the return of her son. Moreover, in the same sentence,  Mr. White notices the "fatal mistake" he makes while playing chess. This further foreshadows the final scene when Mr. White realizes that Mrs. White has made a grave error by wishing for the return of her son.

Secondly, after Mr. White wishes for £200, his son, Herbert, says:

Well, I don't see the money. . . and I bet I never shall.

Herbert is right in this assertion. He does not see the £200 because he will die before it is ever given to Mr. White. This comment foreshadows the accident at work in which Herbert loses his life.

These examples of foreshadowing are important because they create tension and suspense in the story by hinting at the sinister power of the monkey's paw.

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It is to W. W. Jacobs's credit that the reader is horrified by the ending of his story when there are numerous hints that things may not work out for the Whites.

Here are some elements of foreshadowing that misfortune will strike the Whites after they take possession of the monkey's paw that has had a spell put on it by an old Indian fakir:

  • The sergeant-major, who shows the paw to the Whites, states that the first owner of the paw had three wishes and the third was for death.
  • The old soldier, who has had his three wishes, morosely throws the paw into the Whites' fireplace.
  • When Mr. White makes his first wish on the paw, it shakes in his hand, startling him. After he goes to bed, his son Herbert remains in the darkness and gazes at the dying fire. Suddenly, he sees faces in it.

The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement. It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it. His hand grasped the monkey’s paw, and with a little shiver he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed.

  • Mrs. White sees "the mysterious movements of a man" outside their house on the day after Mr. White wishes for two hundred pounds. The man appears to be indecisive as he walks back and forth three times. Finally, he knocks at the door.
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"The Monkey's Paw," by W.W. Jacobs, contains many examples of foreshadowing that create suspense as to the story's ending.  Many of these examples occur quite early in the story arousing curiosity and a sense of dread.  The first example is the way the father plays chess.  He takes "radical chances" putting his "king in peril," so that he loses the game to his son.  Thus, we are not surprised when the father is willing to take a risk with the mysterious monkey's paw that grants three wishes.

Sargent-major Morris provides other examples of foreshadowing with his description of the paw:

"It has caused enough mischief."

And later, he discusses the paw's first owner who also had three wishes, and his last wish was for death. So, we know that with the first owner and with the second (Morris), the three wishes only brought misery.  In this way, the readers are led to believe that the monkey's paw is anything but good luck.  This suspicion is confirmed when the father sees faces in the fire that make him shiver after he makes his wish.  There are only a few of the examples of foreshadowing in this story that lead us to the ironic and terribly satisfying ending.

 

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