In "The Monkey's Paw," the author uses both actions and words of the sergeant-major to build suspense. Using evidence from the text, describe how both the words he says and the actions he takes build suspense.
In “The Monkey’s Paw,” the author uses both actions and words of the sergeant-major to build suspense. Using evidence from the text, describe how both the words he says and the actions he takes build suspense.
Sergeant-Major Morris is the catalyst for the events that befall Mr. and Mrs. White. He brings with him the titular Monkey’s Paw, which he explains is a talisman enchanted by a fakir to demonstrate the dangers of meddling with fate. He tries to warn them against using the paw’s magic, but is not willing to explain why: he states that he has used his three wishes, and ‘his blotchy face whitened’ (Jacobs, 2014, p.5) upon acknowledging this, but does not say what any of his wishes were. The White family are excited at the prospect of ‘magic’, but Sergeant-Major Morris appears haunted by the impact of the paw (though we never find out precisely what that has been for him). He then explains that he is the paw’s second owner, and that the first lost possession of it in tragic circumstances: ‘”I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw”’ (Jacobs, 2014, p. 5). Despite this, when Mr. White asks if he would take another three wishes, should they be offered him, he cannot quite respond negatively: he simply responds, ‘I don’t know […] I don’t know’ (Jacobs, 2014, p.6). This element of uncertainty builds the suspense, as his warning that terrible things will occur is undermined somewhat by his strange desire to continue utilising the magic. His attempts to throw the paw on the fire are scuppered by Mr. White – eventually, Morris allows the other man to take control of the paw, but again tries to ‘warn [him] of the consequences’ (Jacobs, 2014, p.7). As we are never told of either the benefits or consequences that Morris faced as a result of the paw’s magic, and we know that the White family will wish imminently, the suspense is magnified.
Jacobs, W. W. (2014). ‘The Monkey’s Paw’. Kindle ed. London: CreateSpace publishing.