What is the rising action in "The Monkey's Paw"?
In the plot of a short story, the rising action includes a series of events that build toward the point of greatest intensity in the narrative. These series of events begin immediately after the exposition, or introduction of the situation, and they include a problem that leads to the climax, or turning point of the narrative.
W.W. Jacobs's short story, "The Monkey's Paw," begins by introducing the readers to the White family and a guest of theirs, Sergeant Major Morris. Mr. White asks his old friend what it was that the old soldier started to tell him about on their last visit. At this point the rising action begins.
In this rising action, Morris tells the Whites about his possession of an odd item, a monkey's paw that once belonged to an old fakir. This religious ascetic, who was considered a wonder worker, put a spell upon the paw "so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it." Herbert White, the son, asks the soldier if he does not have three wishes. "I had," the soldier replies. "And did you really have the three wishes granted?" Mrs. White asks. "I did," the sergeant answers as his teeth chatter against his drinking glass.
"And has anybody else wished?" persisted the old lady.
"The first man had his three wishes, yes," was the reply; "I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That's how I got the paw."
His tones were so grave that a hush fell upon the group.
Mr. White asks Sergeant Major Morris why he keeps the paw if he has had his wishes granted. The solider shakes his head as though he himself does not know his reasons for keeping this strange object. Morris reveals to the Whites that many think he tells a fairy tale. Others want to try one wish first and pay him later, and some simply refuse to buy it.
Considering what he has heard from Morris, Mr. White asks him if he would take three more wishes if he could have them. The sergeant replies, "I don't know," and he tosses the paw into the fireplace, but Mr. White snatches the paw from the fire. "Better let it burn," his friend tells Mr. White. "If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens."
What to do with the paw is the problem of the rising action. After the old soldier departs, Mr. White pulls the paw from his pocket where he has put it, and then all three of the Whites laugh because they, too, believe what Morris has told them is a fairy tale. However, after they decide he should try a wish, Mr. White wishes for £ 200 [200 British pounds] to pay off the mortgage on their house, and the paw moves. Herbert jokes when no money appears. Nevertheless, "[A] silence and depression settled upon all three" until Herbert's parents retire for the night. Afterwards, as Herbert sits looking into the fire, he sees faces, one of which is "so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement." As he reaches for a glass of water that is near him on the table, Herbert touches the paw. He shivers and wipes his hand upon his coat.
The next day Mrs. White scolds her family for their credulity: "The idea of our listening to such nonsense!" Yet, after Herbert departs for work, Mr. White insists to his wife that the paw moved in his hand. His wife makes no reply because she watches the movements of a man outside who seems indecisive about knocking on their door. When he does knock and gains entry into the Whites' home, the rising action ends, and the climax begins.
The introduction and the history of the talisman is the initial rising action in the W. W. Jacobs short story, "The Monkey's Paw." The Whites inherit the paw from their acquaintance, Sergeant-Major Morris, who reveals the mysterious past of the shriveled hand. When he throws it into the fireplace, Mr. White retrieves it. Morris warns them to wish wisely before leaving for the night.
The rising action continues as Mr. White makes his first wish.
"I wish for two hundred pounds," said the old man distinctly.
Mr. White feels the paw move, and a depressing feeling of uneasiness falls upon the family for the remainder of the night. The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. White are paid a visit from the company where their son, Herbert, works. He has been killed in a grisly accident--"caught in the machinery"--and the Whites are offered a compensation of 200 pounds. Although it could be argued that this is the climax to the story, the action actually continues to rise a bit longer as the Whites exercise their second wish--for Herbert to be alive again. The rising action peaks when the Whites realize that their less-than-specific wish has an alternate possibility--that Herbert may be revived but in his deathly, crippled state.