What is the tone in "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs? What are some examples of quotes that reveal the tone?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Monkey's Paw," there are both mysterious tones and those of a certain foreboding.

  • Foreboding

A series of occurrences suggest danger and possible misfortune early in the narrative:

1. In the exposition the weather, which often foreshadows things in narratives, seems to presage danger as Mr. White calls to his son as a diversion, "Hark at the wind" because he has made a bad move as he plays chess because Mr. White, who 

...possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, put[s] his king into...unnecessary perils .

2. Further in their conversations as they wait for their guest, Mr. White complains that the sergeant-major will have to combat the pathway that is a "bog" and the road is "a torrent."

3. When Sergeant Morris does arrive, Mr. White declares that he wishes he had visited India where his friend was stationed. The sergeant's teeth "clank against his glass" before he responds, "Better where you are." Still, Mr. White pursues the topic and asks his friend about a monkey's paw that he acquired in India from a fakir. When Morris pulls this mummified paw from his pocket, Mrs. White draws back in horror "with a grimace." 

4. After Morris explains how he acquired this paw, "His tones were so grave that a hush fell upon the group." All this time, the weather continues to threaten. Then, when Mr. White holds the paw and wishes, "[I]t moved!" he cried.

5. After his parents retire for the night, Herbert, who has been rather flippant about the paw's powers, holds it and gazes into the fireplace where he sees faces, one of which is horrible. As it grows more vivid, Herbert, who has grasped the monkey's paw, shivers and "wiped his hand on his coat and went up for bed."

  • Mysterious

1. During the next morning, the Whites discuss the events of the previous night and Herbert laughs at his father's fears, joking that the £200 wished for in order to pay off his mortgage will change Mr. White to a "mean, avaricious man."

2. Later in the day, Mrs. White watches "the mysterious movements of a man outside."

3. After the visitor is admitted to her home, he tells Mr. and Mrs. White that Herbert has been involved in an accident, but with some mystery in his words, he adds, "he is not in any pain."

4. These mysterious words are later clarified, and the Whites learn that Herbert has been killed. The insurance money for Herbert's accidental death is exactly £200.

5. After the Whites bury their only child, they remain stunned.

It was all over so quickly that at first they could hardly realize it, and remained in a state of expectation as though of something else to happen--something else to lighten this load, too heavy for old hearts to bear.

(Here, there is yet some mystery as to what the conclusion of the story will be.)

6. Finally, one night the bereaved and lonely Mrs. White mentions to her husband that they have two wishes yet from the monkey's paw. She insists that Mr. White wish for Herbert to return to life. Mr. White complies.
As they wait in the darkness for a sound, they hear a creak on the stairs, but it is only a squeaky mouse. But, later Mrs. White hears something else, and runs to the door. Mr. White blocks her; he gropes wildly for the monkey's paw without saying anything to his wife, suggesting that he has realized something horrible.

If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt...and at the same moment he found the monkey's paw and frantically breathed his third and last wish.

Upstairs, there are the sobs of a mother consumed in disappointment and misery.

Certainly, throughout the narrative, then, there are several elements of foreboding and mystery in "The Monkey's Paw."



readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone in the story, "The Monkey's Paw," is one that is ominous. We get a sense that something bad is going to happen paragraph after paragraph until tragedy strikes the Whites. 

In the first paragraph, it is dark and wet. Here is what the text says:

Outside, the night was cold and wet but a fire burned brightly in the small living room of Laburnum Villa...

In the next paragraph we learn that the wind is howling, which adds to the eeriness of the story. These three details point to the fact that something evil is lurking outside.  Right afterwards, as Mr. White and his son, Herbert, are playing chess, Herbert says "Checkmate." The note of losing is introduced.

When the character of Sergeant Major Morris comes on the scene, the eeriness is increased. He brings in magic, talismans, fate, and wishes that lead to suffering. From these elements, the tone is very ominous. The reader knows that something bad is going to happen.