"The Monkey's Paw": Foreshadowing in the Short Story

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Mysterious and Sinister Tone
  • The First Wish and Its Outcome
  • The Second Wish and Its Consequences
  • The Tragic Resolution
  • Conclusion


Foreshadowing is a powerful literary technique used to hint at future events or outcomes in a story. In the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, foreshadowing plays a crucial role in building suspense and creating an atmosphere of impending doom. This essay delves into the use of foreshadowing in the story, exploring how it contributes to the sense of foreboding and fate's warning to the characters.

The Mysterious and Sinister Tone

From the beginning of the story, the atmosphere is set with a mysterious and sinister tone. The foreshadowing begins when the sergeant-major tells the White family about the magical monkey's paw. He mentions its mysterious origins, its powers to grant wishes, and the first owner's wish for death. These early hints already plant the seeds of unease and curiosity in the minds of the characters and readers alike.

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Moreover, the sergeant-major's reluctance to discuss the paw's consequences foreshadows the potential dangers associated with using it. His cryptic remarks contribute to the sense that the monkey's paw holds an ominous secret that could disrupt the lives of those who possess it.

The First Wish and Its Outcome

When Mr. White wishes for £200, the foreshadowing becomes more pronounced. As the paw moves in his hand, readers are subtly reminded of its supernatural nature. The mysterious and uneasy reaction of his family members, particularly his son Herbert, further adds to the sense that the wish may not bring the intended happiness.

Herbert's joking about using the last wish to bring him back from the dead is a chilling foreshadowing of events to come. The idea is dismissed lightly at the time, but it becomes hauntingly significant later in the story.

The Second Wish and Its Consequences

As the story progresses, the second wish introduces a more sinister element. When Mrs. White wishes for her dead son Herbert to return, the atmosphere becomes tense with anticipation. The reader, familiar with the paw's track record, knows that the fulfillment of the wish is likely to have dire consequences.

The foreshadowing comes to fruition when Mr. White frantically searches for the monkey's paw to make his final wish. His desperation and the sense of urgency create a suspenseful climax, as readers anticipate the shocking and tragic outcome of the story.

The Tragic Resolution

The story's tragic resolution aligns with the foreshadowing throughout the narrative. The knocking on the door after Mrs. White's wish foreshadows the return of her son in a disfigured and horrifying state. The suspense is drawn out, emphasizing the impending tragedy that will unfold.

The final scene, where Mr. White makes his third wish, encapsulates the full impact of the foreshadowing. The monkey's paw drops to the floor, and the knocking ceases, leaving readers to contemplate the eerie and unsettling conclusion of the story.


Foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw" serves as a masterful tool to build tension, suspense, and a sense of inevitability. Through hints, warnings, and subtle clues, the author prepares the readers for the tragic events that will unfold. The foreshadowing not only contributes to the overall atmosphere of the story but also underscores the theme of fate and the consequences of tampering with forces beyond human control.

The use of foreshadowing in "The Monkey's Paw" is a testament to the author's skill in crafting a suspenseful narrative that keeps readers engaged while subtly guiding them toward the story's haunting conclusion.

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