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The Monkey's Paw

The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs
By: (1863-1943)

An eerie supernatural story, The Monkey's Paw follows the White family as they come to realize that nothing in life comes without a price or at the simple push of a button. First published in 1902, the short story powerfully suggests that one should not interfere with the course of nature, as cheating fate can result in unforeseen consequences that leave one with more than they bargained for.

Set in England, the tale opens on a dark and stormy night inside Laburnam Villa, home to Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son Herbert. Unlike the gloomy weather outside, the atmosphere inside the house is quite the contrary, as Mr. White and his son are playing a game of chess, while Mrs. White is knitting by the warmth of the fireplace. Shortly after, they are visited by Sergeant-Major Morris, a family friend who has been serving in the British Army in India for a number of years. Recounting some of his exploits during his time in India, Morris decides to share with them a mystical object that is known to have an extraordinary power. Consequently, he takes out a mummified monkey’s paw from his pocket and begins to tell them the legend surrounding the mystical object. Although he reveals that the paw has the power to grant three wishes, he also emphasizes its drastic repercussions, as he tells them of the distressing effect the paw has brought both him and its previous possessors. In a moment of anguish, Morris throws the paw into the fire, but Mr. White quickly retrieves it and manages to convince Morris to sell it to him and show him how it works. Ignoring Morris’s stern warnings, the Whites are in for quite the surprise as they slowly begin to understand the effects of disrupting the course of destiny.

Regarded as one of the greatest horror stories in history, The Monkey's Paw is sure to send a shiver down one’s spine with its uncanny atmosphere, as it allows the audience to develop the supernatural elements in their minds, which in turn only strengthens and prolongs the psychological effect of the tale. Withstanding the test of time, the intense plot ultimately validates the story’s leading position in the horror genre and justifies its influence for various adaptations.


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