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 is the climax of "The Monkey's Paw"?

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In literature, the climax can be described as the most dramatic and tense moment of a story. In "The Monkey's Paw," this occurs when Mr. and Mrs. White learn of the workplace accident that led to Herbert's death. This is a dramatic moment because Mr. and Mrs. White will receive the £200 they wished for earlier in the story, but it comes in the form of worker compensation, a consequence of their son's death. The Whites, therefore, realize that they should have heeded the sergeant's warning about the potential dangers of the monkey's paw.

This scene is climactic because it leads directly to the falling action, in which Mrs. White wishes for her son's return, and the resolution of the story, in which Mr. White wishes him away.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," the climax, or highest point of suspense, occurs near the end of this story as Mr. White hurries to make the final wish on the monkey's paw.

Early on in the story, after having retrieved the monkey's paw from the fireplace where Sergeant Major Morris has suddenly thrown it, Mr. White makes a wish for £200 to pay off the mortgage for his and his wife's house. As it turns out, Mr. White receives this exact amount, but, tragically, it is a payment from the company his son Herbert worked at—Herbert has been caught in the machinery and died.

After the death of their only child, the Whites are forlorn. They are now very lonely on their remote lane. After their son has been in his grave a week, Mrs. White cries by the window of the bedroom at night. Suddenly, she cries out for the monkey's paw, demanding it from her husband. "Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again." Mr. White retrieves the paw, but he is afraid of the look on his wife's face. As he hesitates, his wife orders him to wish. "I wish my son alive again," Mr. White commands the paw. This second wish is as careless as his first.

It is with the sound of a knock that the climax begins. When Mr. White lights a match, he hears another sound.

"He [stood] motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated." Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room and closed the door behind him. "It's Herbert!" cried the old woman.

She hurries to open the door; Mr. White hurries to prevent her. Groping madly on the floor, he finds the monkey's paw and breathes his third and final wish. This is the climax. "Herbert was too terrible to see." Just as Mrs. White is about to open the door, the knocking ceases as Mr. White's final wish is granted. The forlorn Mrs. White cries, and Mr. White runs to her side.

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What was the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The most frightening single moment in "The Monkey's Paw" occurs in Part III when Mr. White goes downstairs to get another candle. At his wife's insistence, he has wished for his son Herbert to return. But nothing has happened. He feels a sense of "unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman." His wife apparently gives up hope and has come back to bed. Since Mr. White does not have a candle to see his way down the stairs, he is holding a lighted match. Then:

At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another, and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door.

Why should the knock be "so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible"? It suggests that the person outside must have some guilty secret. If the knocker is Herbert returned from the grave, then he may have been trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible all the way from the cemetery to his parents' home. Why? Because he was well aware how horrible he looked after being mangled by machinery and decaying in his grave. The knock seems to contain a confidential message that Herbert wants to come home and live with his parents but does not want anybody else in the world to see him or know he is there. 

Mr. White's reaction to that quiet and stealthy knock suggests how frightening that moment was.

The matches fell from his hand and spilled in the passage. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated. Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room, and closed the door behind him.

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What was the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The most frightening moment in the story occurs at the very end when Mr. and Mrs. Smith hear the knocking at their downstairs door, late on a very dark night. From the details developed throughout the story, the reader infers it is their dead son Herbert knocking to come in. Herbert is not perceived here to be a ghost, but a living corpse who has come out of his grave.

The mood of this scene adds to the suspense. The darkness of the night is “oppressive.” A stair creaks. A clock ticks in the silence. The knocking at the door is “quiet and stealthy.” Mr. Smith goes down the stairs with the light of a burning match that soon goes out. When the knock is repeated, Mr. Smith flees back to his room, terrified.

After the knocking has continued and grown louder and more insistent—even angry-sounding—Mrs. Smith rushes downstairs to the door and struggles with the bolt. She tries desperately to let her son in. Upstairs, Mr. Smith struggles to find the monkey’s paw to make his final wish, that Herbert go back to the peace of the grave.

The moment of greatest fear is then achieved when Mrs. Smith finally manages to get the door open: No one is there.

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What is the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

For me, the most frightening part of "The Monkey's Paw" occurs after Mr. White's wife has forced him to wish for their son to return to life. White is very reluctant to do so, but his wife is so emotional and insistent that he finally makes the wish. Then, apparently, nothing happens.

The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed, and a minute or two afterward the old woman came silently and apathetically beside him.

Their bedside candle burns out, and White, holding a lighted match, goes down the stairs to get another candle.

At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another; and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door.

This single sentence seems like the most frightening moment in the story. White is standing in the pitch-darkness when he hears a quiet and stealthy knock at the front door. We are sure that this is Herbert returned from the grave. Who else would be knocking at their door in that sparsely settled area at that time of night? White has seen Herbert's mangled body and knows how much more horrible he must look after being buried and subject to some decay. Herbert would not exactly be a living man, and he would not be their old Herbert. There would be no more funny jokes. He would be a horrible monster who had come to move back into his old home. The fact that the knock is "so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible" makes the moment seem all the worse. It is as if Herbert knows he looks unspeakably horrible and is timid about signaling his folks to let him in. Mr. White knows it is Herbert but wants to pretend to himself and to his wife that he didn't hear the knock. He doesn't want to open that door and see what he knows he would be facing on his doorstep in the dead of night. We as readers share the father's dread. We don't want to have to look at that horrible monster, and we realize that Mr. White would have no choice but to admit his son if he opened the door. In that case, Herbert would be part of the family again. How could they live with such a creature who was dead and brought back to life and really should be dead and buried? We are not entirely sure--and neither is Mr. White--that Herbert is harmless. Death may have changed his character to match his mangled appearance. He might be more like a vampire or a demon than the old happy-go-lucky Herbert. We can imagine all sorts of things!

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What is the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The most frightening moment in the story "The Monkey's Paw" may well be the moment when, after the representative of Maw and Meggins speaks to Mr. and Mrs. White and disclaims liability for the accident that has killed their son Herbert, he informs the Whites that they are to receive "a certain sum as compensation," a sum that the Whites fear is one for which they have asked. 

... His dry lips shaped the words, "How much?"
  "Two hundred pounds," was the answer.
  Unconscious of his wife's shriek, the old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor.

Having learned that their son has been killed at work, Mrs. White's face has blanched, her eyes stare blindly, and her breath is "inaudible" while her husband's face has the look a soldier "might have carried into his first action." They fear that something terrible is going to be said next, something connecting Herbert's death with their actions of the previous night as they recall the sergeant's warning. So, when the representative of the company offers "[T]wo hundred pounds," they know with horror that the first wish made upon the monkey's paw has come true. Because they have not stipulated conditions and sources from which the money may not come, the Whites have inadvertently brought about the death of their son. This fateful knowledge is so horrific that Mrs. White shrieks, and Mr. White, who has made the wish for two hundred pounds, drops, "a senseless heap, to the floor."

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What is the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

For me, the most frightening moment in The Monkey's Paw is when, after the second wish, for Herbert to return from the grave, and Herbert, or some form of him is approaching the house, at the door.  Mrs. White is too short to open the top bolt, she is dragging a chair to the door, to let in whatever ghoul or zombie form of Herbert has risen from the grave, while Mr. White frantically searches for the monkey's paw.

He gets the monkey's paw, seconds before Mrs. White is able to get the door open.  Mr. White had used his third wish to return his son to the grave where he belongs.

For me, the suspense of reading this part of the story was the most frightening.   Wondering what Herbert looked like, after his horrific accident, and that the monkey's paw did not grant wishes in the most positive style, I wasn't sure whether Mr. White or Mrs. White would win this struggle.

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What is the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

Only you can answer this question because only you can say what moment in the story most frightened you. This question is calling for a subjective answer, which simply means it is asking for your opinion. Your teacher wants to know what you think about this story and what part of it scared you the most. If nothing was particularly scary, then your answer can be that you didn't think it didn't scare you; try to give some reason why, like it is too old-fashioned or you could predict what was going to happen, so you were ready for it when the part that was supposed to be scary came.

Subjective questions can be a student's lifesaver: There is no right or wrong answer--unless you leave it blank or go completely off subject. (For instance, don't say that the evil clown scared you when there is no evil clown in the story.)

I hope that helps!

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What is the most frightening moment in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The most frightening section of W.W. Jacobs' short story "The Monkey's Paw" is just after Mr. White has acquiesced to his wife and used the second wish to bring Herbert back from the dead. At first they don't think the wish will be fulfilled because nothing happens. Then Mr. White hears a noise. He lights a candle and starts downstairs. The knock is initially "quiet and stealthy" and it so surprises Mr. White that he drops the box of matches. Jacobs creates a good deal of suspense as the reader is not sure who or what is knocking. Obviously petrified, Mr. White insists it's a rat on the stairs and flees back to the bedroom. He realizes that his son is now a hideous corpse, badly disfigured by the accident which claimed his life. It has taken time for the zombie-like Herbert to make his way from the cemetery two miles away. Mr. White desperately attempts to prevent his wife from going to the door but she breaks free as the knocking on the door becomes more and more furious. Fortunately, she is delayed because she has to push a chair to the door so she can reach the bolt. This gives Mr. White time to find the paw and wish Herbert away in the story's climax. Jacobs writes,

He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey's paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish.

 

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