Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in The Monkey's Paw

Vocabulary Examples in The Monkey's Paw:

I.

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

The adjective “simian” means “monkey-like.” Mr. White'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 Mr. White’s visions: he’s up late and has been drinking, so he’s susceptible to seeing horrible things in the fire.

"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.

"credulity..."   (I.)

The word "credulity" refers to readiness or willingness to believe something without evidence.

"antimacassar..."   (I.)

The word "antimacassar" refers to a cover to protect the back or arms of a sofa or chair. Antimacassars were often crocheted. 

"maligned..."   (I.)

The word "maligned" means injured by false or misleading statements about one's character or activities.

"talisman..."   (I.)

A "talisman" is an object believed to have magic powers. In this context, the word refers to the monkey's paw.

"offhandedly..."   (I.)

The word "offhandedly" means casually. The sergeant-major speaks offhandedly about magic because he has probably seen a lot of it during his twenty-one years in India.

"condoling..."   (I.)

The verb "to condole" means to express sympathy. In this context, Mr. White and his visitor are likely discussing the visitor's difficulties in making his way to the house.

"hospitable..."   (I.)

The word "hospitable" means to demonstrate friendliness to guests or strangers. Mr. White is eager to see his visitor.

"bibulous..."   (II.)

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

"credulity..."   (II.)

The word "credulity" refers to readiness to believe something with or without adequate evidence.

"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.

"resignation..."   (III.)

The word "resignation" refers to acceptance of something that one would like to change but cannot.

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