An Analysis of Horror and Fear in "The Monkey’s Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

Categories: Horror


This comprehensive analysis aims to explore the nuanced layers of horror and fear embedded within W.W. Jacobs's timeless short story, "The Monkey’s Paw." This gripping tale revolves around a seemingly magical talisman that grants three wishes, each wish unraveling unintended and horrifying consequences. By dissecting specific aspects of the narrative, we can uncover the intricacies that make this story a compelling work of horror fiction.

The Mysterious Origin of the Talisman

The horror within "The Monkey’s Paw" initiates with the enigmatic background of the talisman's previous owner, Sergeant-Major Morris.

The soldier reluctantly shares details about the talisman, and a palpable sense of discomfort and fear shrouds him. His quiet demeanor and whitening face hint at a dark history behind the talisman.

Delving deeper into Sergeant-Major Morris's unease provides a critical perspective. His reaction raises questions about the origin and nature of the talisman. The discomfort suggests that the talisman may possess malevolent qualities or a sinister past.

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Unraveling the circumstances of how Morris acquired the talisman becomes paramount, offering insight into a crucial layer of horror beneath the seemingly innocuous exterior of this mystical object.

For instance, Morris's reticence and the way he regards presumptuous youth provide a psychological undertone. The narrative plays on the fear of the unknown, leaving readers to speculate about the true nature of the talisman and its potential consequences.

Desperation and Grief: The Husband and Wife's Response

The horror intensifies as the narrative unfolds, focusing on the intense emotions and conflict between the husband and wife following the tragic death of their son.

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The fight over whether to use a wish to revive their son immerses the reader in a psychological maelstrom of grief and desperation.

By delving into the characters' psychological states, we uncover the depth of their desperation. The husband and wife face a moral dilemma faced by the husband and wife, torn between the supernatural possibility of resurrecting their son and the potential consequences of meddling with life and death. This moral quandary adds a layer of horror that extends beyond the supernatural, tapping into the human fear of playing with forces beyond our understanding.

The exploration of the husband and wife's responses provides an opportunity to delve into the complexities of grief and the lengths to which individuals may go in the face of profound loss. The terror here is not just confined to the supernatural realm but also delves into the psychological horror of grappling with the boundaries of life and death.

Narrative Techniques: Building Tension and Unease

The horror in "The Monkey’s Paw" is not confined to supernatural elements alone; the narrative itself plays a crucial role in building tension and unease. Specific techniques employed by Jacobs contribute to an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the story.

For instance, examining the pacing and suspense-building strategies enhances our understanding of how Jacobs weaves a tale of horror. The careful description of settings, coupled with the pacing of events, creates an ominous atmosphere that lingers. As the husband frantically searches for the monkey’s paw, the narrative heightens the tension, allowing readers to feel the urgency and fear of impending doom.

Exploring the narrative techniques also involves scrutinizing the use of symbolism and foreshadowing. The monkey’s paw itself becomes a symbol of the characters' unchecked desires and the dire consequences that accompany tampering with fate. This layer of symbolism adds depth to the horror, as readers grapple with the implications of the characters' decisions.

Conclusion: A Multifaceted Horror

In conclusion, "The Monkey’s Paw" achieves its status as a horror classic through a multifaceted approach to fear. The mysterious origin of the talisman, the emotional turmoil of the characters, and the narrative techniques collectively contribute to the horror woven into the fabric of the story. By exploring these elements in detail, we gain a comprehensive understanding of why this short story continues to captivate and terrify readers.

Furthermore, the expansion of the analysis emphasizes the timeless relevance of "The Monkey’s Paw" in the horror genre. The exploration of psychological horror, moral dilemmas, and the consequences of unchecked desires adds layers of complexity that resonate with readers across generations. Jacobs's ability to tap into universal fears ensures that this short story remains a chilling exploration of the human psyche and the consequences of tampering with the supernatural.

Updated: Jan 17, 2024
Cite this page

An Analysis of Horror and Fear in "The Monkey’s Paw" by W.W. Jacobs. (2016, Oct 18). Retrieved from

An Analysis of Horror and Fear in "The Monkey’s Paw" by W.W. Jacobs essay
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