We can say that it is the arrival of Sergeant Major Morris, who is visiting his friends the Whites, that sets up the conflict.
The story opens with a peaceful domestic scene, which is directly contrasted with the hostile outside world.
Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly.
We are swiftly introduced to the inhabitants of this home: Mr and Mrs White, and their son Herbert, to all appearances a content and happy family.
However, the entrance of Sergeant Major Morris disturbs the comfortable scene. His entrance represents the irruption of outside forces into the little home, wild, dark and threatening like the storm, and the stories he tells them of his adventures in the east appear to have a sinister tinge as he talks of ‘wars and plagues and strange peoples’ – things all far removed from the world of everyday. These wild dark, and ultimately incomprehensible forces all crystallize into the form of the monkey’s paw which he brings with him, with its supposedly grim supernatural powers.
The Whites are at first merely curious, and treat the whole business of the paw quite light-heartedly, but various sinister signs surrounding the paw increase the tension of the situation. The Whites have unwittingly come into contact with something they cannot really fathom and which will destroy their homely, ordinary existence.