The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

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What is the mood of "The Monkey's Paw" and when in time does it take place?  

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Another mood found in Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw" is light-heartedness. The family takes the story of the paw as entertaining and fun rather than seriously at first. It's as if it was just a good spooky story told in front of the fire rather than non-fiction. For example, Mrs. White jokes that the story sounds like something one would have read out of The Arabian Knights. She goes on to say that she would like an extra pair of hands to help her out in the kitchen. But Herbert is the biggest jokester of the family. He comes up with the most playful things to say to his parents about wishing on the paw as follows:

"If the tale about the monkey's paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us. . . we shan't make much out of it. . . Why, we're going to be rich, and famous, and happy. Wish to be an emperor, Father, to begin with: then you can't be bossed around. . . I expect you'll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed. . . and something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains"

The joking around brings in a fun, light-hearted mood which helps to contrast the gloomy, bewitching, depressing mood that follows soon after. Because Herbert brings in a fun, joking, and sarcastic mood, accepting his death becomes harder than it probably would have been if he had been a sulky or belligerent son.

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"The Monkey's Paw" is a Gothic short story. This sub genre of Romanticism aims to use the darker aspects of reality and add specific elements that would intensify their role in the story for the purpose of mood. 

Often, Gothic stories will show the following "staple" traits:

  • a remote location
  • inclement weather
  • inevitability of fate
  • death surrounding the plot
  • the lowest ebbs of human emotion: tragedy, desperation, sadness, insanity
  • the presence of the supernatural

As such, "The Monkey's Paw" reunites all of these factors making the mood fluctuate from happy and upbeat (at first), to gloomy, scary, and desperate toward the end.  

At first, we have a couple playing chess during a dark, windy and rainy night, presumably isolated. Fate is about to knock on the door in the form of the Sergeant Major and the entrance of the actual monkey's paw. Death will come in the form of the news of the couple's son, and the insanity and despair that will ensue will come as a result of all the elements working together.

The ending, which leaves the reader in complete suspense is a clever literary technique that adds...

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