What are some elements of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw"?

Asked on by chucksandy

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susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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"The Monkey's Paw," by W.W. Jacobs, contains many examples of foreshadowing that create suspense as to the story's ending.  Many of these examples occur quite early in the story arousing curiosity and a sense of dread.  The first example is the way the father plays chess.  He takes "radical chances" putting his "king in peril," so that he loses the game to his son.  Thus, we are not surprised when the father is willing to take a risk with the mysterious monkey's paw that grants three wishes.

Sargent-major Morris provides other examples of foreshadowing with his description of the paw:

"It has caused enough mischief."

And later, he discusses the paw's first owner who also had three wishes, and his last wish was for death. So, we know that with the first owner and with the second (Morris), the three wishes only brought misery.  In this way, the readers are led to believe that the monkey's paw is anything but good luck.  This suspicion is confirmed when the father sees faces in the fire that make him shiver after he makes his wish.  There are only a few of the examples of foreshadowing in this story that lead us to the ironic and terribly satisfying ending.


mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is to W. W. Jacobs's credit that the reader is horrified by the ending of his story when there are numerous hints that things may not work out for the Whites.

Here are some elements of foreshadowing that misfortune will strike the Whites after they take possession of the monkey's paw that has had a spell put on it by an old Indian fakir:

  • The sergeant-major, who shows the paw to the Whites, states that the first owner of the paw had three wishes and the third was for death.
  • The old soldier, who has had his three wishes, morosely throws the paw into the Whites' fireplace.
  • When Mr. White makes his first wish on the paw, it shakes in his hand, startling him. After he goes to bed, his son Herbert remains in the darkness and gazes at the dying fire. Suddenly, he sees faces in it.

The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement. It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it. His hand grasped the monkey’s paw, and with a little shiver he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed.

  • Mrs. White sees "the mysterious movements of a man" outside their house on the day after Mr. White wishes for two hundred pounds. The man appears to be indecisive as he walks back and forth three times. Finally, he knocks at the door.

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