The Monkey’s Paw

by

W. W. Jacobs

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Themes and Colors
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Monkey’s Paw, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Fate vs. Freewill

Mr. White, the protagonist of “The Monkey’s Paw,” struggles to accept his fate in life. However, when an acquaintance gives him a magical dried monkey’s paw, which supposedly has the power to grant three wishes, Mr. White believes that he can finally exert his will on the world in a quick and consequence-free manner. When he tries to do this by wishing for money, though, his wish goes awry: the money comes as…

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The Uncertainty of Reality

The seemingly-supernatural events of “The Monkey’s Paw” cause both the characters and the reader to question the nature of reality. While those who wish on the monkey’s paw seem to have their wishes supernaturally granted, and then seem to be supernaturally punished for their hubris, nobody knows for sure whether the wish fulfillments and their consequences are supernatural or simple coincidence. After all, Morris’s stories about the paw’s powers could just be fanciful tales…

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Inside vs. Outside

From the storm that rages outside the family’s home in the beginning of the story, to the supposedly cursed object Morris brings back from his travels abroad, to the knocking at the door (potentially by a reanimated corpse), all of the story’s dangerous elements come from outside to menace the safety of the home. As such, “The Monkey’s Paw” can be read as an allegory of British anxiety over their changing homeland, particularly addressing the…

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Industrialization

During Jacobs’ lifetime, Britain underwent rapid industrialization. Jacobs shows the harms caused by industrialization in Herbert’s death through a machinery accident and the company representative’s cold response to the Whites. With this tragedy, Jacobs grounds the horrors of “The Monkey’s Paw” in the real life social issues surrounding industrialization, such as dangerous working conditions and worker exploitation.

Herbert goes to work in a factory every day, like many young people in Britain during…

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