The Monkey's Paw
by W.W. Jacobs
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Sympathetic, with a Hint of Mischief
Tone refers to an author's attitude toward his characters and subject matter. We have to make guesses about the tone based on the author's writing. Here's what we've come up with:
- He seems to take the dark subject matter seriously, especially Herbert's death. Jacobs could have made this into a lighthearted story where Herbert comes back to life and given the story a happily-ever- after, but he didn't. Jacobs isn't taking the death of loved ones lightly.
- He uses the horror genre to talk about some very serious issues: working conditions in factories, the effects of British colonialism, the alienation and isolation caused by the Industrial Revolution, grief over a loved one, and other serious matters. He is a serious guy who has serious concerns about the world he lives in, which he voices in the story.
- Jacobs is famous for "The Monkey's Paw" now, but in his day people knew him as a comedic writer. In fact, that's how he made much of his living. This story has the outrageous, over-the-top feel of many Gothic tales of horror (like Edgar Allan Poe's work) and borders on being funny at times, like when Morris tells the legend of the paw to the Whites. We think this is probably the comedian in Jacobs coming out, keeping the story from being so serious that we can't tolerate it. Jacobs knows it's sometimes easier to get people to think about serious issues by veiling them in genres like horror and humor. He is in full control, though. He knows that too much humor might spoil the horror and undermine the seriousness.