Teaching Students About The Author of “The Monkey’s Paw”

If you’re looking for an engaging and thought-provoking short story to teach in your English class, consider “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. This classic tale, first published in 1902, has become a staple in schools around the world due to its supernatural elements and timeless themes.

The story is about a family who receives a magic monkey’s paw that grants them three wishes. However, as they soon discover, every wish comes with a terrible consequence. While the plot is relatively simple, the story’s exploration of themes such as greed, fate, and the human desire for control makes it an excellent addition to any English course.

As you introduce your students to “The Monkey’s Paw,” you may want to start by discussing the idea of supernatural elements in literature. Ask your students if they have read any other stories that incorporate supernatural elements into the plot, and if so, what role they think these elements play in the story. Encourage them to consider why authors may choose to include supernatural elements in their work, and what effect these elements have on the reader.

Next, you can introduce the story itself. Depending on the level of your students, you may want to give a brief synopsis of the plot or have them read the story on their own. Regardless of your approach, make sure that your students understand the basic premise of the story (family receives a monkey’s paw that grants wishes, but every wish has a terrible consequence) before moving on.

Once your students have a solid understanding of the plot, you can start to delve into the story’s themes.

Some topics you may want to cover include:


In “The Monkey’s Paw,” each character who makes a wish does so out of greed – they want more money, more power, or more control. Ask your students if they think the story suggests that greed is a negative trait. Why or why not?


One of the central ideas of the story is that fate cannot be controlled or changed. Ask your students if they agree with this message, and if they think the characters in the story should have tried to fight against their fate. Why or why not?

The human desire for control:

Each wish made in “The Monkey’s Paw” is an attempt to gain control over a situation. Ask your students if they think the story suggests that humans are inherently control-seeking creatures. Do they think this is a positive or negative trait? Why?

Finally, you may want to end your lesson with a discussion about the story’s ending. Without giving too much away, “The Monkey’s Paw” ends on a bleak note, and many readers are left feeling unsettled or disturbed by the final twist. Ask your students how the story’s ending made them feel, and what they think this feeling says about the story’s themes.

Overall, “The Monkey’s Paw” is an excellent option for any teacher looking to introduce their students to the idea of supernatural elements in literature or explore themes like greed and fate. By encouraging your students to think critically about the story and its meaning, you can help them become more engaged readers and develop their analytical skills.   

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