In what way does the setting described in lines 1-21 suggest or foreshadow later events in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting is stormy and the house is isolated, foreshadowing trouble for the White family.

At the beginning of the story, the writer establishes the setting carefully to prepare the reader for the trouble to come later to the White family when they use the monkey's paw.  The storm, and the fact that there are very few people in the White’s neighborhood, creates a mood of loneliness and isolation that foreshadows trouble.

Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former … putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

Even the subtle things like using the word “peril” to describe the game, and contrasting the coziness of the family’s house with the weather outside, lead the reader to feel like something might happen later on.  This all establishes the mood of bad weather outside, but cozy, simple family life inside.  The Whites are a simple and pretty happy, fairly normal family.

Then, Mr. White mentions the fact that the family is far away from most neighbors.

That's the worst of living so far out," bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlooked-for violence; "of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent. I don't know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses on the road are let, they think it doesn't matter."

Again, the mood is established by letting the reader know that the Whites live in an isolated place, which we come to expect will produce spooky events.  Again, looking at the tone of the wording is helpful.  Notice the word “violence.”  The nature of the friendly game between father and son, and the fact that the father is supposedly using the weather to distract his son, both helps characterize him and foreshadows actual trouble.

Of course, trouble does find this family.  When the sergeant-major shows up with the monkey’s paw and the family wishes on it, their lives are changed forever.  He warned them not to, to leave it alone, but they didn’t listen.  Their curiosity, or maybe greed, got the better of them.  They are simple, lonely, people, and perhaps bored.  After this, their lives are not boring.

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The Monkey's Paw

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