What point of view is 'The Monkey's Paw' told from?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story is told from the point of view of an anonymous, third-person narrator. The narrative thus stands outside the main characters and relays what happens to them. This kind of narration is contrasted with first-person narration, in which characters tell their own story directly.

The usual advantage of third-person narration is that it provides a wider perspective than any of the characters could; indeed, it is often referred to as ‘omniscient’, or all-knowing. This method of narration means that the writer can use such techniques as 'foreshadowing', or hinting at what is to come, as with the chess game in which Mr White is described as putting his pieces ‘into sharp and unnecessary perils’. This hints at how he will later endanger his family with his unnecessary wish for more money.

However, in spite of this supposedly omniscient narration, quite a lot is left unexplained and unrevealed in this story. We can guess, for instance, that it is the dead Herbert who knocks on the door in answer to his parents’ summons, but we are not told this for sure. When the door is finally opened, there is nothing much to see:

The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

 Like Herbert’s parents, we are left merely with this tantalising glimpse of a dark and empty road at the end of the story, rather than with solid answers.

Indeed, although the story is technically given in the third person, the perspective appears essentially limited to what the Whites themselves know and experience. We are not given any outside information about the whole business of the monkey’s paw; we only learn what the Whites themselves learn. The narrative does not really allow us to see beyond the confines of the Whites’ home.