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

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.