“The Monkey’s Paw” Lesson Plans, Summary, Analysis, and More

WITHOUT, the Monday morning was cold and wet, but in the small classroom of Laburnam High School the blinds were drawn and the flourescent bulbs burned brightly. The two assistant principals were at the state championship wrestling match, the former, who possessed ideas about teaching involving radical changes was not scheduled to be back until next Tuesday. Mr. White, putting his job into such sharp and unnecessary perils because he didn’t bother having a”Monkey’s Paw” lesson plans or even a “Monkey’s Paw” summary, not knowing Mr. Fireyou cancelled the trip and was about to show up in Mr. White’s classroom, expecting “The Monkey’s Paw” lesson plans and a high quality lesson aligned to Common Core standards, would soon be looking for a job at the local K-mart.

It’s too late to help Mr. White, but not too late to help teachers looking for lesson ideas, a summary, an analysis and more for “The Monkey’s Paw.”

“The Monkey’s Paw” Summary

Part I. The story begins with Herbert White and his father playing a game of chess, which Herbert wins. The two, along with Mrs. White, are awaiting the arrival of Sargent Major Morris, a man who has been abroad for 20 years.

Among the sergeant major’s many tales is that of a Monkey’s Paw, cursed by a Fakir who wanted to show people not to mess with fate. The White’s ridicule the story. Morris throws the paw into the fire, and Mr. White, despite his professed incredulity, fetches it out, against Morris’s protestations.

Later that evening, Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds, a sum that would pay off the mortgage on his home.

Part II. Mr. White’s kind of freaking out a little because he felt the paw move in his hand as he makes the wish. The next morning, however, White is calm and Herbert continues to mock the paw. Herbert goes to work and Mr. and Mrs. White do what they do. A messenger from Maw and Meggins shows up, reporting that Herbert has been caught in the machinery and has been mangled to death.

The company sends along with their condolences and compensates the Whites 200 pounds for the death of their son. Da! Da! Dahhhhhhhhh!

After the funeral, Mrs. White forces Mr. White to wish their son alive, despite Mr. White’s objections. A while later, there’s a banging at the door. Mr. White, who knows what a horrific looking creature his zombie son would be, picks up the paw and makes one last wish.

The knocking stops.

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In addition to what you see here, “The Monkey’s Paw” Teaching Guide contains engaging lesson plans, graphic organizers, answer keys, rubrics, and a quiz. You’re getting an entire teacher-friendly/student-friendly, ready-to-use unit. Just print out what you need and make a few copies. Add your expertise and boom! That’s an entire unit’s peace of mind for $4.50 (and since you’re gonna share this with your grade level colleagues, make them pitch in).


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“The Monkey’s Paw” Analysis

  • Foreshadowing and Suspense. There’s enough foreshadowing here to fill up an Edgar Allan Poe book club meeting. Notice how Jacobs’ word choice turns a simple game of chess into a perilous conflict.
  • Fate vs Choice. Oh, this ages-long debate continues. One could say Herbert’s life was ended because the White’s messed with fate. One could also say it was Mr. White’s choice to mess with fate. So what really causes his death?
  • Man vs. Supernatural. This is a classic case of person vs. the supernatural. As usually happens, the supernatural wins.
  • Mood. Jacobs’ word choice sets the mood, a mood shaped by sound devices and connotative meanings.
  • The Dangers of Wishing and Short Cuts to Success. The Whites seem to have everything, but that doesn’t stop the old man from wishing. It’s also apparent Mr. White is OK taking short cuts to success.
  • The Sanctity of the Home. Outside forces threatening the family abound. It is, however, Mr. White’s submission to the outside force of “The Monkey’s Paw” that dooms the family.
  • Irony. Who would think making wishes would lead to disaster or that getting wishes leads to misery or that anyone would wish their loving son dead again. Herbert’s wise-ass comments provide a bevvy of verbal irony examples.
  • Ambiguity. Several commentaries on the story feel the ending is ambiguous and that perhaps the death of Herbert and subsequent compensation is a coincidence and that the pounding on the door could have been some random visitor who decides to leave before Mrs. White can get to the door. This is the type of bullcrap you’ll find at Brighthub, Sparknotes and other second rate sites. It would be one helluva coincidence now wouldn’t it? In other words, there’s about a 99.2% chance it’s a mangled Herbert at the door, not just a coincidence conceived by sub-standard scholarly overthinking. In fact, Morris notes at the beginning that these tragedies of fate happen so naturally that it’s often discounted as coincidence. Apparently, many so-called scholars (a pretentious term, indeed), forgot that part.

“The Monkey’s Paw” Lesson Ideas

Use “The Monkey’s Paw” analysis as a launch for your “Monkey’s Paw” lesson plans.

  1. Connotation vs. Denotation. Rewrite the first few paragraphs of the story, changing several key words to synonyms. The result is a completely different meaning, despite the words having similar or identical denotations.
  2. Imitation Writing Assignment. Assign a three wishes narrative similar to “The Monkey’s Paw.” Start with a graphic organizer that sets up the scenarios.
  3. Foreshadowing Analysis. Identify examples of foreshadowing and what it foreshadows.
  4. Irony. My favorite literary device finds a home in this lesson plan.
  5. Symbolism. The White’s home is full of homey objects. The outside world is full of danger. I’m a big fan of charts. Use one here.
  6. Dig up a dead body and bring it to school as an object lesson.

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