illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs
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What are some examples of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw"?

An example of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw" comes when Sergeant-Major Morris throws the paw on the fire. This foreshadows the danger that the magic talisman will bring to the Whites.

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The first example of foreshadowing in the story occurs during the chess game between Mr. White and his son, Herbert. Mr. White proceeds to put his most valuable piece, the king, in "unnecessary danger" and recognizes that he has made a mistake that "could cost him the game." Mr. White's reckless moves during the chess match foreshadows his rash decision to wish upon the malevolent monkey's paw, which puts his son in serious danger. Similar to Mr. White's king, his son is valuable, and he places him in considerable, unnecessary peril by using the monkey's paw. Following Herbert's death, Mr. White attempts to undo his mistake and narrowly prevents his wife from witnessing his son return as a zombie.

Another example of foreshadowing concerns Sergeant-Major Morris's story about the monkey's paw and his solemn response to whether or not he would want to have three more wishes. Foreshadowing takes place when Morris comments that the first owner's third wish was for death. This foreshadows the tragic situation the Whites experience when they discover Herbert has died in a work accident. Similarly, Morris's response that he does not know if he would want more wishes and his decision to throw the paw into the fire foreshadows the evil associated with it. The background of the monkey's paw and Morris's response suggests that the talisman is evil and that only bad will come from owning it. Tragically, the Whites pay the ultimate price for using the monkey's paw, ruining their peaceful lives.

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Sergeant-Major Morris knows full well that the monkey's paw he's brought to show the Whites is a very dangerous object indeed. He knows that it's most certainly not the piece of harmless mumbo-jumbo the Whites seem to think it is. Sensing that Mr. White and his family don't take it seriously, Morris throws the paw onto the fire.

Sergeant-Major Morris wouldn't have done this unless he genuinely believed that the paw represented a danger. His actions, therefore, foreshadow the immense trouble that the magic talisman will bring to the Whites.

Unfortunately, Mr. White retrieves the paw from the fire before it can be completely destroyed. In doing so, he unwittingly sets himself and his family on a path of heartbreak and tragedy.

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One example of foreshadowing begins with Mrs. White's lighthearted reaction to Sergeant Major Morris's grave explanations of the powers of the monkey's paw:

"Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?"

Her husband drew the talisman from his pocket and then all three burst into laughter as the sergeant-major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.

"If you must wish," he said gruffly, "wish for something sensible."

It is clear that the Whites do not believe that any harm can come from wishes, and the stern cautionary statement to "wish for something sensible" foreshadows their later insensible actions, especially the wish to bring their son back from the dead.

Near the end of the story, Mrs. White commands that her husband use the paw to bring her son back to life. As he stumbles through the house considering her demands, there is another example of foreshadowing:

The talisman was in its place, and a horrible fear that the unspoken wish might bring his mutilated son before him ere he could escape from the room seized upon him, and he caught his breath as he found that he had lost the direction of the door.

This foreshadows the knocking that the couple will soon hear at their door, and this image of the "mutilated son" whispers in the reader's ear as the author never directly says who or what is doing the knocking so late at night. Because of this foreshadowing, the reader is led to believe that their "mutilated" son has indeed risen from his grave and at the end stands knocking as a direct result of the powers of the monkey's paw.

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Foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw" serves to alert the reader that misfortune may lay ahead.

Foreshadowing: In the exposition Mr. White tries to distract his son from seeing the error he has made in the last move of his chess piece. What is interesting about this foreshadowing is the description of his motive:

Mr. White...having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it [his move].

Incident that occurs: Later, Mr. White, having made the fatal "move" of wishing on the monkey's paw that the sergeant urged him to throw away, wishes for £200 to pay off his mortgage, and in so doing, unintentionally causes his son to die in order for them to receive the accident insurance money that pays off the mortgage. Later, Mr. White tries to undo his fatal mistake by wishing his son back to life just as he tries at chess to undo his "fatal" mistake by distracting his opponent.

Foreshadowing: Sergeant Major Morris clearly indicates that he is afraid of the monkey's paw. For instance, his teeth chatter against the glass. Then when he tells the Whites that the previous owner had his first two wishes granted but his third was for death, Morris hints at the danger connected to the monkey's paw.

Incident that occurs: After Herbert is killed at work and the Whites receive the £200, they are lonely and miss Herbert so badly that Mrs. White begs Mr. White to wish their boy back. This, then, is their second wish: to have Herbert return to them. However, they forget that their son's body has been mangled by machinery.

"Don't let it in," cried the old man, trembling....[he] was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If only he could find it before the thing outside got in.

When Mr. White retrieves the paw, he makes the third wish, and it is also for death.

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One of the first examples is the description of the way that Mr. White plays chess. His style is reckless to the point that others comment on it. In the game they are playing as the story opens, Mr. White only sees that he's made a huge mistake after the fact. He tries to distract his son by commenting on the wind, "having seen [the] fatal mistake after it was too late." This foreshadows how the family's wishes on the paw will ultimately affect them.

Another example would be the way that Morris responds to the request that he tell the tale of the Monkey's Paw. Clearly, he would very much like never to speak of it, as he knows there could be terrible consequences. This foreshadows the terrible consequences of using the paw.

When Morris tells the tale and sees that his hosts are interested in the paw, he throws it upon the fire. When Mr. White snatches it out, Morris says, "better let it burn." Clearly, this artifact will bring no joy to the one who possesses it and uses the three wishes.

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