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Foreshadowing in The Monkey's Paw

As with many horror stories, the characters’ actions and fates are foreshadowed even in the very beginning of the story.

The Chess Game: Through observing Mr. White’s “reckless” chess playing, readers can surmise that he doesn’t quite think his actions through.

The Repeated Warnings: Likewise, the warnings of the paw’s previous owners—and their terrible fates—suggest that something equally awful will happen to his family if he uses the paw.

Foreshadowing Examples in The Monkey's Paw:


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"Arabian Nights..."   (I.)

Mrs. White alludes to One Thousand and One Nights (first translated as Arabian Nights), a collection of Arabic folktales. In of the more well-known stories from the collection, a man named Aladdin makes wishes from a magic lamp, but the wishes do not always turn out exactly as he would like. This foreshadows the story’s eventual outcome and the trickery of the monkey’s paw.

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"the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. "I have," he said, quietly, and his blotchy face whitened...."   (I.)

Notice how Morris is situated in a position of experience while Herbert represents youthful inexperience. It is clear that whatever Morris remembers, it causes him great distress, which contrasts to the smart curiosity of Herbert. Whatever the paw’s powers, it clearly changes people for the worse, setting an ominous tone and foreshadowing the consequences of using the paw’s powers.

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"He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow..."   (I.)

This line neatly encapsulates one of the story’s main themes. The expressed purpose of the paw is to show that people’s fates are predetermined, and any attempt to change fate will result in something terrible. Though the Whites don’t quite know the gravity of this statement yet, what’s fated will come to pass, one way or another.

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"you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence."..."   (II.)

This outlines the central mystery of the story: is the paw truly magical, or are the Whites’ wishes fulfilled purely by chance? It also foreshadows the fulfilment of Mr. White’s first wish, which will come true soon.

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""I wish my son alive again."..."   (III.)

Notice Mr. White’s choice of words. Though Herbert may return alive, he may not return in the same body or health he had while living. What Mr. White fears may come true due to his poor wording of the wish.

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"I could only recognize him by his clothing..."   (III.)

Through Mr. White’s words, readers learn that Herbert’s body was so badly disfigured that his own father had a difficult time in recognizing him. Mr. White is thinking more rationally than his grief-stricken wife: while she only wants to see her son alive again, Mr. White remembers the tricky power of the monkey’s paw. He seems to suspect that Herbert will not return whole, even if they wish for him alive again.

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