What does the phrase "hark at" mean in the context of "The Monkey's Paw"?

Asked on by sholowz

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readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It is best to start with the text:

"Hark at the wind," said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it. "I'm listening," said the latter grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. "Check."

Hark is an antiquated word, but it means “listen” or “hear.” It peaked in usage around the 1900s and dipped in the 1950s. There has been a slight increase in the early 2000s. This analysis makes sense, as the short story by William W. Jacobs was published in 1902. 

In the context of the short story, Mr. White is playing chess with his son, and he makes a fatal mistake. Presumably he moved a piece and only afterwards saw it was to his detriment. In order to distract his son, Herbert, with whom he was playing chess, he said to him: listen to (hark at) the wind.

Herbert did not fall for the diversion. He moved his piece, and he said: “Check.”

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

At the beginning of the short story "The Monkey's Paw," Mr. White is playing his son, Herbert, in a game of chess. The narrator mentions that Mr. White had unnecessarily moved his king to a comprising position and wished to distract his son from seeing his mistake. Mr. White says "hark at the wind" in hopes of distracting his son's attention. Herbert responds to his father's comment by saying "I'm listening." As was mentioned in the previous post, the word "hark" means to listen or pay close attention. Using context clues, the reader could figure out the meaning of the word simply from reading the son's response to his father's comment. The word "hark" was an Old English term used around 1200 CE as a hunting cry to call attention to something. Despite his father's attempt to distract him by telling Herbert to listen to the wind, Herbert successfully puts his father in check.

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