The Monkey's Paw
by W.W. Jacobs
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
This title is creepy and mysterious, drawing readers in to its web of fear. The mere mention of the paw of a monkey hints that we will be rewarded with chills and thrills. It sounds so exotic – we can almost smell the incense and hear the mystical music. In 1902 England, when this story was published, readers would have instantly associated monkeys with India, then a part of the British Empire.
Most British people never saw India personally and weren't necessarily being given accurate information about it. It was usually talked about as drastically different from Britain, full of strange ways and deeds. The title seeks to draw people into the story by playing on their curiosity about India and other faraway places.
Today's readers might not instantly associate the title with India. You might think of zoos, funny monkey videos on YouTube, or the Simpson episode inspired by the story. You might even wonder if this is a story about animal rights, or a monkey that lends a helping paw to somebody. Again, the title awakens our curiosity and makes us start turning pages to find out what it means.
For more on the monkey's paw as a symbol, check out our discussion in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory."