Why does Mr. White complain about the weather in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mr. White complains about the weather to distract his son from the chess game.

Chess is a game of concentration and strategy.  The son must have been beating the father, or at least giving him a run.

Although the reason Mr. White complains about the weather is to distract his son from the chess game, the real reason for the weather is more complicated.

 "Hark at the wind," said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it.

Mr. White and his son are playing chess on a very windy and rainy day.  The real reason for the weather being bad, and the author bringing it to our attention in the very beginning of the story, is to set an ominous mood and foreshadow trouble later.

 "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.

The mood of the story is the emotional atmosphere.  The very first line of the story establishes this mood, describing the whether outside the house as by saying “the night was cold and wet” and contrasting it with the supposed comfort of the fire inside.  However the domestic tranquility is doomed to not last.  This is foreshadowed by Mr. White’s comment about the wind.  In fact, the family is soon visited by a mysterious soldier who comes with an odd talisman, the Monkey’s Paw.  The Paw causes trouble for the family.  Because of the Paw, their lives will never be the same.

The scene of domestic tranquility at the beginning of the story, a father and son playing chess, the father trying to cheat, establishes for the reader a starting place.  We get to know the Whites, and we know that they are good, simple people.  We know that the Whites are close, and they love their son.  It makes it all the more meaningful later when they lose him because of a poorly chosen wish.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"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 in the road are let, they think it doesn't matter."

This is a way of describing the exterior surroundings of the White's home without the intrusion of an omniscient author. Such an intrusive description might alert the reader that the author had some ulterior purpose. As it is, it seems as if Mr. White is just disgruntled because he lost a game of chess. The isolated situation of the little house plus the bad weather mean that there would be virtually no foot traffic or horse-drawn traffic on the road. Therefore when the story reaches its dreadful climax with someone pounding on the door. the likelihood that it must be the dead and mangled Herbert returned to life is increased. Who else would it be at that time of night in that isolated place? Nevertheless, it could be some total stranger who is lost and needs help. There is only one other occupied house in the entire area, and he may have already tried there without success. The other people could be away from home. But this hypothetical stranger would have seen the light in the Whites' bedroom window.

He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window. The candle-end, which had burned below the rim of the china candlestick, was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceiling and walls, until, with a flicker larger than the rest, it expired. The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed, and a minute or two afterward the old woman came silently and apathetically beside him.

The lost stranger could have been knocking so insistently because he is desperate and because he knows for certain that someone must be at home. He could not have helped seeing the light because everything else was totally dark. So the story ends without the reader ever knowing whether it really was Herbert knocking, whether he stopped knocking because of his father's third wish, or whether it was just a coincidence that an innocent stranger came knocking at just that time. In the opening scene of Part II of the story, Mr. White tells his wife and son:

"Morris said the things happened so naturally," said' his father, "that you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence."

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