Where is there irony in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The irony in “The Monkey's Paw” is that the Whites get the opposite of what they expected. They believe that the monkey's paw will bring them blessings, whereas in fact it only brings them curses.

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Situational irony is when the outcome of a specific situation is the exact opposite of what people expected. “The Monkey's Paw” is built on situational irony in that the Whites believe that the magic talisman brought to them by Sergeant-Major Morris will bring them nothing but blessings, but it in fact will bring them curses.

For instance, when Mr. White makes a wish on the paw for money to pay off his mortgage, he does indeed get what he wished for. But the money that he receives comes in the form of compensation for his son Herbert's fatal accident at work. This is a classic example of situational irony because the end result was the exact opposite of the expected outcome.

The same thing happens later on in the story when Mrs. White urges her husband to make a wish on the paw to bring their dead son back to life. Mr. White duly does so, but as he hears the ominous sound of loud knocking at the door, he realizes that Herbert won't be as they remembered him. So he makes a final wish on the paw, and the knocking stops. The monkey's paw, contrary to what the Whites had originally thought, has brought them nothing but misfortune.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 30, 2020
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In "The Monkey's Paw," there are numerous instances of irony, many of which involve the Whites' son, Herbert. When his father receives the monkey's paw, for example, it is Herbert who declares that the family will be "famous," "rich," and "happy." As a test, Herbert tells his father to wish for £200.

The White family does indeed receive £200. In a tragic and ironic twist, however, it is Herbert's death which brings them this money. The £200 is paid as compensation for Herbert's death at work. Herbert will never know what it is like to be rich, famous, and happy, because his life is cut short by the very paw that he hoped would bring them such good fortune.

In addition, in the final part of the story, Mrs. White begs her husband to wish for Herbert to be brought back from the dead. This is ironic because the family has just seen evidence that wishing on the monkey's paw is a terrible idea—and Mrs. White didn't even want to make a wish in the first place. By wishing Herbert back from the dead, then, she does the very opposite of what we would expect, thereby creating an ironic twist.

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In the story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, the irony, or difference between what the Whites think will happen and what actually happens, is that the monkey's paw, an object of their desires to have wishes fulfilled, becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

This ironic outcome is foreshadowed in the words of Sergeant Major Morris, a guest of the Whites whose demeanor is nervous when he recounts his possession of the monkey's paw which was passed on to him.  For instance, he admits to the paw's giving of three wishes, but his face whitens and his teeth tap against the glass from which he drinks; then, he replies to the query as to what the third wish was, "I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death.  That's how I got the paw."  Solemnly, he urges the Whites not to keep the paw, but to "let it burn." 

Of course, the greed of the Whites supercedes the fear of the magic of the paw.  They make a wish for a grand sum of money, a wish they receive; however, ironically, Mr. and Mrs. White lose their son Herbert in the fulfillment of the wish.  For, the two hundred pounds is the amount of payment due on the life insurance policy for Herbert, who is killed in an accident at work.  In another dramatic ironic twist, the lonely parents wish for their son back, but he returns a mangled, hideous creature; so, Mr. White must wish him dead to spare Herbert and his wife the agony of his living a tortured life.

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The irony in "The Monkey's Paw" is situational irony which by definition is:

"Situational irony results from recognizing the oddness or unfairness of a given situation, be it positive or negative. Even though a person typically cannot justifiably explain this unfairness logically, the coincidental nature of the situation is still very obvious to those evaluating it."

The Whites in wishing on the monkey's paw experience an odd unfairness in the way that the wishes are granted.  They come out of the experience having less not more.

The Whites go into the realm of the monkey's paw knowing that those who use it are subject to misery.  They were warned by Sergeant Major Morris, who himself, is the second owner of the monkey's paw and does not reveal what his experience was like, but he does tell the Whites that the first owners third wish was for death.

It is so ironic that in a situation where a person is expected to gain riches through the use of a a magical talisman, that he actually ends up paying a high price just for wishing.  The wishing process which is expected to bring joy actually brings great sorrow. 

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The kind of irony in "The Monkey's Paw" is dramatic irony. The reader should expect the fact of the Whites having three wishes as something which would bring them good luck and fortune, but the very opposite happens instead. Sometimes this is called situational irony, but the sense is the same: things work out in a completely different way from what is "supposed" to occur.

In this case, the Whites get the money they wished for as a compensation for Herbert's death, and the next two wishes are "spent" on calling him from and putting him back in the grave.

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