The Monkey's Paw
by W.W. Jacobs
Where It All Goes Down
Laburnam Villa, somewhere in England, around 1902
The main setting of "The Monkey's Paw" is inside and around the White family home, called Laburnam Villa. The story is probably set around the time it was published, in 1902. The first section of the story covers a single night in the White's lives, and the second section covers the following day. The third section happens at night, ten days after Herbert dies.
As the story opens, the scene inside Laburnam Villa is contrasted with the scene outside. Outside, it's your typical dark and stormy night. Inside things are warm and cheery, with chess, knitting, and a roaring fire. As the story progresses, the house becomes progressively darker and spookier – complete with creaking stairs, strange shadows from candles, and things that go bump in the night. After Herbert dies, we are told that the house becomes "steeped in shadow and silence" (3.3).
This is just the beginning of the house's dark transformation. The climax comes when what we imagine to be the mutilated and grave-rotted Herbert comes back from the dead and knocks on the door. At the end of the story, the house is no longer a nightmare place, but we don't get the idea that things are going to be happy inside for a very long time.
Maw and Meggins
Maw and Meggins is the name of the company that owns the factory where Herbert works. We never visit this place, and we never learn exactly what is done there or what Herbert's job is. We don't learn whether carelessness on Herbert's part, unsafe conditions, or something else caused his death. This setting is important because it highlight one of the story's more serious issues: working conditions in factories in the early 1900s.
Like Herbert's workplace, India is heard about but not seen in the story. In 1902 India was still part of the British Empire. Because of the British presence and influence in India, the British public had been exposed to information about India (much of it faulty) for some time, mostly from British people who spent time there. The fact that the monkey's paw supposedly comes from India reflects the public's fascination with India, its embrace of stereotypical representations of people from India, and an eagerness to believe that Indian and other foreign traditions would cause problems if introduced into Western societies.