Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in The Monkey's Paw

Vocabulary Examples in The Monkey's Paw:



"The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement...."   (I.)

The adjective “simian” means “monkey-like.” Herbert’s vision of a monkey’s face in the flames doesn’t bode well for him. It suggests that the paw’s power to grant wishes is real and that perhaps they should have listened to Morris’s warnings. However, there is also a rational explanation for Herbert’s visions: he’s up late and has been drinking, so he’s susceptible to seeing horrible things in the fire. Notice also how this is one of the few times the narrator sticks to Herbert’s thoughts rather than Mr. White’s.

"He darted round the table, pursued by the maligned Mrs. White armed with an antimacassar...."   (I.)

W. W. Jacobs does not entirely abandon his humorist roots; this moment of slapstick comedy where Mrs. White chases her son around the house with an “antimacassar”—a noun which means a “clothing covering to prevent staining on the back of a chair”—is a stark contrast to the darkness in the rest of the story.

"fakir..."   (I.)

The noun “fakir” refers to a person of Muslim (or sometimes Hindu) religion who lives off of the charity of others. Often, fakirs were thought to be magical or in possession of objects with supernatural powers. This is partly because of the Englishes’ tendency at the time to view those of other heritages as otherworldly.

"rubicund of visage...."   (I.)

The adjective “rubicund” suggests that Morris’s “visage”—another word for “face”—is reddish or ruddy, likely from habitually drinking alcohol. Morris drinks quite a bit during his visit, and the Whites seem to keep up with him.

"bibulous..."   (II.)

The adjective “bibulous” means “fond of drinking alcohol to excess.”

"fusillade..."   (III.)

The noun "fusillade" means a large number of gunshots fired in rapid succession. The word is used figuratively to describe the sound of the knocking.

"talisman..."   (III.)

The noun “talisman” refers to an object thought to have magical or occult powers.

"bracket..."   (III.)

The noun “bracket” refers to a shelf or other architectural flat surface designed to hold items.

"apathy..."   (III.)

The noun “apathy” refers to a feeling of lacking interest or concern. Without Herbert, the Whites have little else to care about.

"resignation--the hopeless resignation..."   (III.)

The repetition of "resignation," especially paired with "hopeless" in the second repetition, conveys the opposite of what the word "resignation" really means. Here, it's as if repeating the word might make accepting what happened easier, but at the same time pairing the word with "hopeless" expresses just how difficult and seemingly impossible the task truly is.

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