W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw" gives readers a horrific account of what happens when people are not careful what they wish for, with wishes coming true in the worst possible ways. When teaching the short story, parents and instructors can engage students in activities incorporating key elements of the grisly 1902 tale.
Fate's Role In Our Lives
With "The Monkey's Paw" depicting horrible outcomes following characters' interference with fate, students discuss the role of fate in people's lives for this activity. Students divide into two groups to debate the issue, with one group arguing that people have no control over the events in their lives and the other arguing that people can control what happens to them. Alternatively, students discuss disciplines in which people predict fate, such as astrology and palm reading, and exchange experiences, opinions and stories in which fate played a role in their lives.
Good Luck Charms
Though the monkey's paw in the story did not produce the good luck that the Smiths anticipated, students look to more traditional good luck charms for this activity. Students choose items associated with good luck or making wishes, such as falling stars, ladybugs, rainbows and wishbones. After researching the items' history and why the items supposedly bring good luck, students present their report.
Wanted: Monkey's Paw
Treating the monkey's paw as a wanted criminal, students create a "Wanted" poster. Items on the poster should include the following: an image of the suspect; a detailed description of the paw's crimes; warnings in regards to the paw's dangerous effects when people use it for making wishes, and suggested action to take upon encountering the paw.
After Sergeant Major Morris tosses the monkey's paw into the fireplace, he warns Mr. White that if he keeps it, "don’t blame me for what happens.” In this activity, students write a journal entry discussing how Morris' comment foreshadowed events and why the Smiths chose to ignore the warning. As a variation, students tie their own experiences into "The Monkey's Paw," and discuss whether they have ever ignored a warning, only to have something bad happen as a result.
Given the chance to possess the monkey's paw, students discuss what three wishes they would choose in this activity. For each wish, students state consequences that may arise from each wish. Students then discuss positive and negative effects of the following ideal qualities and situations that people wish for: athletic abilities, beauty, immortality, intelligence, money, a pollution-free world and world peace. Alternatively, students design their own wish-granting object, providing rules for wishing and the wishes themselves. Students include warning labels if the wishes potentially carry negative consequences.
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