Literary Devices in “The Monkey’s Paw” by Jacobs Essay
Updated: Sep 5th, 2020
The passage from the short story by Jacobs is a literary work, whereby issues of magic and fate are explored. The author uses literary devices and characters in the story to help the reader explore these issues. The story gives a number of angles with regard to the issues. In this story, Jacobs indicates how myths and the belief in negative fate are just in the people’s imaginations, and not logically or rationally possible. The author is trying to examine how different people may perceive magic. He is trying to create an environment that will help the reader understand how different people may believe or not believe in magic. Jacobs tries to create a scenario whereby the reader will examine the ways in which people believe in magic, and how ordinary events can be mistaken to be caused by magic. The author is talking about fate and magic at the same time, and also tries to show the way people surround mythical things with beliefs that make it easy for the believers of such things to end up believing that magic or fate are a reality. In this passage, however, fate is seen as a different from how it is defined in English language. For instance, fate is seen as an outcome that cannot be interfered with by man. This refers to both positive and negative outcomes of events.
In the passage, the author uses the word fate to indicate an undesirable outcome that a human being has no chance of changing. This is in connection with other beliefs, such as believing in magic and myths. The author is also trying to show how the two things that are associated with this story are incompatible. He tries to clearly show that fate and magic cannot be compatible, which means that believing in both may not make a lot of sense because one tramples the other. For instance, if magic is real, then it can be used to change fate. On the other hand, if fate (as defined in this passage) is a reality, then magic cannot be real because it may not be able to change fate. Thus, the author is trying to show that these beliefs are just naïve beliefs that have no logical standing (Jacobs 4).
The author tries to explore the issues in a number of ways. First, he does this by having two sets of characters in the story, including those who believe in fate and magic and those who do not believe in it. There are also those who are on the middle ground; that is, those who are not sure whether to believe in magic or not. Mrs. White does not believe in magic and fate and is actually very satirical with regards to the beliefs. For instance, when his husband takes the monkey’s paw from the fire after Sergeant Morris cast it into fire, Mrs. White mockingly tells him to wish for her to have four more pairs of hands. She does this not only to mock the belief in the magical power of the monkey’s paw, but also to refer to the fact that she is being overworked. This includes having to serve dinner to the two old men and the youngster, who is her son. Regardless of that, her comment indicates that she has no regards to either magic or fate.
Mrs. White is being used by the author not only to bring humor into the story, but also to bring the other side of the story, which shows that magic is not only mythical but also logically and rationally impossible. Mr. White on the other hand is used as a middle ground for the matter. This is because while Mr. White does not believe in magic, he is shown as having tendencies that may indicate that is very likely to believe in magic. Mr. White is depicted as someone who is surviving his glory days; especially now that he is losing his knowledge of chess to his young son. Also, he is seen as complaining too much about the conditions of living, especially after losing a game of chess to his son, after which his wife soothingly and mockingly tells him not to worry because he may win the next game. The author uses this to indicate that weakness and vulnerability can make people gullible and thus inclined to believe in virtual things such as magic and the power of fate. Although the author does not explicitly say that Mr. White and Mr. Morris served in the army, calling them by military titles such as major and sergeant indicates that they once served in the army, which shows that they could be undergoing psychological problems because of the past glory. This could be the reason why the two are inclined to believing in magic and fate.
The author is also able to help the reader to examine the issue of magic and fate by using them together. These two things are incompatible and, although the author does not say this explicitly, he expresses it by demonstrating that one is mutually exclusive from the other. For instance, if people’s lives are controlled by fate as Mr. White believes, then the magical power of the monkey’s paw may not be real because if it were, it could be used to override fate. In other words, fate and magic cannot coexist, and believing in both can only show naivety.
Also, the author uses other techniques to help him explore the issue of magic. For instance, while Sergeant Morris says that the monkey was cast a spell so that three men would get their wishes, he says that he does not know whether the first two men got their wishes. The author uses this to show how convenient discrepancies are usually used to help in supporting mythical beliefs. Sergeant White also says that his wish was for him to get the monkey’s paw, and that is why it died. This is also another convenient evidence for the magic because there is nothing magical about a monkey dying and its paw mummified. When Mrs. White Mockingly tells her husband to wish four more pairs of hands for her, Mr. Morris argues that for the wishes to be honored, they must be sensible.
To any reader of Monkey’s Paw, the issue of magic and fate is very outstanding. Regardless of what anyone believes, reading this passage will leave one with at least two things, an opinion on the issues covered in the passage and new ideas. The author has successfully managed to use the characters in the story to explore the issue and serve the reader with insightful opinions.
Jacobs, William Wymark. The Monkey’s Paw. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906. Print.
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