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The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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What is the point of view in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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The story is told from the point of view of an anonymous, third-person narrator. The narrative thus stands outside the main characters and relays what happens to them.

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"The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs is written in the third person point of view. We can tell this because of the pronouns the narrator uses throughout. If he/she used the pronouns "I, me, we, and us," in the narration of the story (dialogue is usually in first person no matter the point of view of a story), we would know the point of view is first person. But when the narrator uses "He, she, they, them," as Jacobs does, the point of view is third person. This particular narrator would be considered an objective narrator. He/she tells us the story of "The Monkey's Paw" as a neutral observer. The narrator is not a person from within the story, but someone on the outside. 

"The matches fell from his hand. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated. Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room, and closed the door behind him. A third knock sounded through the house" (Jacobs 15).

You can see here that the narrator is just reporting what he/she observes. This is what an objective narrator does. "The Monkey's Paw" is written in third person objective point of view. 

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The story is written in third person. Is the narrator omniscient? I would say from the outset that that would seem to be the case; the narrator seems to know what is going on inside the heads of the parents and the son. It is less clear that the narrator has the same access to the thoughts of the sergeant-major. What I begin to suspect is that the sergeant-major is a kind of proxy for the narrator, and the narrator is a kind of con man: all this business about the Monkey's Paw can't be true, can it? And the narrator, with the sergeant-major, are serving this story up with straight faces. It is as if the reader is in the same position as the man and his son: dare we believe it? So call the point of view, 3rd person trickster!

 

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That the story "Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs is written in omniscient narrator is evinced in passages in which the characters are described as thinking something or doing something in a manner that is described by the narrator.  Here are examples:

"Likely," said Herbert, with pretended horror.

Herbert sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in it.

She [Mrs. White] broke off suddenly as the sinister meaning of the assurance dawned upon her and she saw the awful confirmation of her fears in the other's averted face.

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Yep, this story is definitely written in third person omniscient. The two points of view that are often confused and slightly difficult to separate are the omniscient point of view and then the third person limited, which is identified because we are still told the story in the third person (he, they etc), but we still follow the action from the perspective of one person. It is like we are spectators looking in but following one of the characters alone. In this story we follow all characters and do not just zoom in on one, indicating that it is told using the omniscient point of view.

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I think you're exactly right about "The Monkey's Paw" being written in third person omniscient.  The entire beginning of the story addresses the characters by their proper, more formal names:  Mr. White, Mrs. White, Sergeant Major Morris.  Note the following line and you'll see the third person references (she, he, and they as opposed to I, me, and my) as well as the omniscient (all-knowing) point of view:

She broke off suddenly as the sinister meaning of the assurance dawned upon her and she saw the awful confirmation of her fears in the other's averted face. She caught her breath, and turning to her slower-witted husband, laid her trembling old hand upon his. There was a long silence.

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First person narration will use me, my, mine, and etc. Second person will use you, your, yours, and etc. Third person will use everything else. Third person omniscient is all seeing/all knowing about each of the characters. In the first paragraph we find out that the father is desirous, grim, violent (so to speak), The wife is soothing. She and the son are sharing knowing looks. etc. We look into each of the characters and their reactions.

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The point of view is 3rd person limited.  This means that there is an outside narrator who is telling the story, and not one character him or herself (that would be 1st person POV).  The "limited" part means that although the narrator is "above" the story, the story still focuses on following one person only.  In the case, the focus is on Mr. White, and readers see the story through his eyes.

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What point of view is 'The Monkey's Paw' told from?

The story is told from the point of view of an anonymous, third-person narrator. The narrative thus stands outside the main characters and relays what happens to them. This kind of narration is contrasted with first-person narration, in which characters tell their own story directly.

The usual advantage of third-person narration is that it provides a wider perspective than any of the characters could; indeed, it is often referred to as ‘omniscient’, or all-knowing. This method of narration means that the writer can use such techniques as 'foreshadowing', or hinting at what is to come, as with the chess game in which Mr White is described as putting his pieces ‘into sharp and unnecessary perils’. This hints at how he will later endanger his family with his unnecessary wish for more money.

However, in spite of this supposedly omniscient narration, quite a lot is left unexplained and unrevealed in this story. We can guess, for instance, that it is the dead Herbert who knocks on the door in answer to his parents’ summons, but we are not told this for sure. When the door is finally opened, there is nothing much to see:

The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

 Like Herbert’s parents, we are left merely with this tantalising glimpse of a dark and empty road at the end of the story, rather than with solid answers.

Indeed, although the story is technically given in the third person, the perspective appears essentially limited to what the Whites themselves know and experience. We are not given any outside information about the whole business of the monkey’s paw; we only learn what the Whites themselves learn. The narrative does not really allow us to see beyond the confines of the Whites’ home.

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How does the point of view affect the theme in the story "The Monkey's Paw?"

By telling the story from the third-person limited point of view, Jacobs is able to allow the characters to keep their internal thoughts to themselves. In doing so, he allows the reader to create them on their own.

Rather than describe the thoughts that Mr. White goes through as he considers the tale told by the Sergeant and whether or not he ought to wish using the monkey's paw, Jacobs allows the reader to reconstruct the thought process in their own heads, arguably far more effective than simply outlining it for the reader.

By recounting the conversations without the thoughts behind them, Jacobs far more effectively links the reader to the themes of greed and the inability to follow good advice sincerely given. It is easy for the reader to imagine Mr. White wishing for the money that he eventually gets but only after the death of his only son. It is easy to connect the horror of the mangled boy's body being re-animated and returning to the house and the desperate love of the mother that pushes her to disregard caution and good sense in wishing him back to life.

By using the third person limited voice, Jacobs crafts a far more effective story with these themes.

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