Comparing two short stories, The Withered arm and The Monkey’s paw, discussing what part the supernatural plays in each story

The supernatural has always been popular from medieval times to the present day. The supernatural is a word that describes something above natural. The supernatural is something which is not logical or explicable. People are very interested in it, as they do not know what to expect. Supernatural stories are strange, and people do not see such things in their everyday lives; they may want to get away from their normal lives by escaping into literature. The supernatural appeals to people’s imaginations.

It also tries to give explanations about powers above the force of nature. People also like being scared and the supernatural gives them this adrenaline rush. The supernatural has a definite literary tradition and this tradition goes back to medieval times from the story about Beowulf. Though the supernatural is different according to period and place, when people did not have medicine or such advanced scientific or technological knowledge they were more superstitious. Authors choose to use the supernatural because it interests people and therefore it sells.

Also the supernatural is a vehicle in each story and this creates suspense. The supernatural allows the author to be more innovative and illogical and it helps him to create interesting circumstances, in which the characters interact and are affected by each other. The supernatural is also used to show the characters’ human nature. In this essay I will talk about the two stories – “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Withered Arm” and I will discuss how the supernatural affects the characters and the part that the supernatural plays in each story.

The supernatural is very interesting as a theme in itself in each story, without the supernatural in either of the stories, the stories would have been the usual: about peoples’ everyday lives. The supernatural acts as a catalyst in both the stories and the characters’ reactions undermine the story. Also in both the stories the supernatural allows the writer to convey a message in an interesting, unpredictable way. In the “Monkey’s Paw” in the opening paragraph nothing is unusual and everything is completely plausible, “In the small parlour of Laburnum villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly … ather and son were at chess. ”

Though afterwards when the Sergeant-Major walks into the house and talks about the monkey’s paw, he sets off the idea of the supernatural in this story, “Monkey’s paw is just a bit of what you might call magic perhaps. ” The story suddenly changes from a family in their normal lives playing chess to a family who suddenly fear the unknown – the monkey’s paw. From then on, the supernatural just affects the characters more and more and this makes the story much more interesting and intriguing.

Soon after Mr White wishes for two hundred pounds. I think that the message that the writer is trying to bring to us is ironic and sad, as when they search for the money the son says “Well, I don’t see the money… and I bet I never shall,” Mr and Mrs White receive the money from his accident. The supernatural interests us in this story as we do not see this in our everyday lives but not only that we want to see if the monkey’s paw is going to work. That is how the supernatural acts as a theme in itself in that story.

In “The Withered Arm” it’s a different case all together. At the beginning of the “Withered Arm” we see everything is calm and relaxed with people doing their usual milking, “The hour was about six in the evening, and three fourths of the large, red, rectangular animals having been finished off, there was opportunity for little conversation. Though later the situation changes completely through Mrs Lodge’s dream, where Rhoda scratches and hits Mrs Lodge’s arm.

It is from this dream that the supernatural is interesting as a theme in itself as we (the reader) want to know if it is a dream or if it isn’t a dream and we want to see if it was a coincidence; a dream occurring at the same time as the pain in Mrs Lodge’s arm. The story affects these three main characters – Mr and Mrs Lodge and Rhoda and it’s interesting to see what will turn out to be the outcome of this dream and the pain in Mrs Lodge’s arm. In “The Monkey’s Paw” the incident near the end when Mr and Mrs White hear knocks on the door and they believe it to be Herbert back from the dead is very fascinating.

The atmosphere when they suddenly hear sounds is very tense and they were scared, ‘A third knock sounded through the house “What’s that? ” Cried the old women starting up, “a rat” said the old man in shaky tones “a rat it passed me on the stairs” … his wife sat in bed listening. ‘ Mr and Mrs White didn’t want to believe the possibility of Herbert coming back from the dead as the incident when they lost him and received the money could have been incidental but this couldn’t be.

As the wife goes to open the door, Mr White runs down the stairs and Mr White wished for the son back to die though it doesn’t say that directly “He found the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish. ” We can know what the atmosphere is like as Mr and Mr White are both shouting and “crying” there were many knocks on the door all the time and this gave this ending an exhilarating pace, also the vocabulary used is very simplistic with not much detail allowing for total reader involvement.

Afterwards the knocking ceased and the atmosphere became what it was like at the beginning of the story – calm even after the tragedy and the disappointment of the wife “a long wail of disappointment and misery from his wife. ” Life carries on, though there is an interesting idea that the man wished for his son back to live, and then wished his son to die. Not only has he changed his mind, but he also learned not to mess with the supernatural and this is the moral of this story. In “The Withered Arm” at the end, there is a very interesting and chaotic incident involving Gertrude Lodge, the boy who has died, Rhoda and Mr Lodge.

As soon as Gertrude puts her arm on the dead boy’s neck her blood suddenly changes “the turn of the blood had taken place. ” Though when she sees Rhoda with her husband and Rhoda tells her that it is their son’s funeral, Gertrude just fell down on the floor needing help on the feet of her husband “when her husband lifted her up she was unconscious. ” Gertrude died before anyone could help her. This scene is fast paced as it is with long sentences and shows the same contrast shockingly as in the other story, with long sentences with commas.

The turn of blood helps us to imagine Gertrudes’ movement and the pace of these few paragraphs in the story don’t allow us to pause for breath. There is a scary and spooky atmosphere when Gertrude puts her arm on the dead boy as we anticipate something above the normal to happen and then the story goes a bit chaotic until it later calms down in the end. In these ways the supernatural element holds our interest. The supernatural is fundamental to the plot in both stories and is incentive to read on to see the consequences. In both stories we want to see what the characters’ reactions will be from the supernatural.

In “The Withered Arm” what interests us in the beginning is the relationship of Rhoda, Gertrud Lodge and Mr Lodge even if this interests us we want to know what will happen when something beyond the natural affects them and how their reactions will be. Thomas Hardy, the author of the “Withered Arm” took a married couple and another women in their everyday lives, (Mr Lodge milking his cow “the troop of milkers, regular and supernumerary, were all at work”) and turned them using the supernatural as a tool, into worst enemies.

In the “The Withered Arm” the supernatural also interest us because we want to know if the dream of Gertrude is real or not and what will happen to her arm, if she can cure it or not in the end, the author does a very good job of this. In “The Monkey’s Paw” the author W. W Jacobs turns a story of a normal family into a horror story using the Monkey’s Paw as the supernatural tool and allows the author to be more innovative to bring new ideas, “The monkey’s paw had a spell on it by an old fakir… a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did not do their sorrow… e put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.

” We want to read on as we want to see if the monkey’s paw is going to work. The supernatural is fundamental to the plot in both stories and the author uses the supernatural element to make us want to read on. In “The Withered Arm” we can see how the supernatural affects the characters in that story. At its beginning Mr Lodge talks about Gertrude and at the end Mr Lodge and Rhoda are together at their sons’ funeral, while Gertrude Lodge tries to cure herself, though she doesn’t succeed and she dies.

The characters are not only affected by the supernatural, but also by their own feelings, as we see how Rhoda is jealous of Gertrude and the supernatural shows what jealousy can do; “Rhoda Brook could raise a mental image of the unconscious Mrs Lodge that was realistic as a photograph. ” The “Withered Arm” is a metaphor for what jealousy does to you. Rhoda has a feeling of deception but does not tell Gertrude, and Rhoda is so jealous of Gertrude’s beauty that she has reverted unconsciously to the supernatural and the farmer only loves his wife for her beauty and he isn’t very sympathetic.

The supernatural is trying to tell us something about human nature in this story, how Rhoda is jealous, and how the farmer Mr Lodge left his wife only because of her withered arm and didn’t care about her. Gertrude Lodge knew this, “she was honest to her husband, and was ever secretly hoping against hope to win back his heart again by regaining some at least of her personal beauty. ” In “The Monkey’s Paw” the three main characters at the beginning are calm at home. Sergeant-Major changes all that as soon as he comes in talking about the monkey’s paw.

Slowly the three characters, Mr and Mrs White and their son, react in different ways. Mr White wanted to wish for something “I don’t know what to wish for” and Herbert and his mother were joking around “wish to be an emporer father ten you can’t be hen-pecked. ” The supernatural affected Mr White so much that he thought he was seeing strange faces in the fire. When Mr and Mrs White hear that the boy died and that they receive two hundred pounds for compensation, they start to believe that the supernatural, the monkey’s paw, is working “get it and wish again.

Mr and Mrs White get so scared by the supernatural, the awakening of their dead son Herbert that the father at the end decides to wish his third and last wish, to send his son back to the grave. The supernatural in this story is also used to decide the fate of the characters. The supernatural tries to tell us that human nature always wants to try the unknown, to see if it works or not and the dire consequences of dabbling with the unknown. “The Withered Arm” tells us about the social, historical and cultural context the time the story was written.

Gertrude relies on the farmer in this story so we can sense that this was written at the time when women were seen as lower than men and this was their lifestyle. The supernatural allows the author Thomas Hardy to show things about the cultural context, how men treat women and how the women suffer, this is what happens to Gertrude. In “The Monkey’s Paw” we can see how the people react to the supernatural as “The Monkey’s Paw” is many years after “The Withered Arm” which in the latter people are more interested in magic potions.

The supernatural in “The Monkey’s Paw” tells us how people reacted to it and how people feared it at that time. The monkey’s paw was from Asia and this makes the paw more of an unknown object. The supernatural has always been and still is very popular, but it changes over time. Once the main element within the supernatural were ghosts and potions but now the supernatural is more about U. F. Os and little green men from different planets and dimensions. The supernatural has always been very popular and it will always be.

In both stories “The Withered Arm” and “The Monkey’s Paw” it played a very important role and we saw this through the characters’ reactions. The supernatural is a tool for the author to play with and it helps the author, as it lets him to be more innovative and it’s an easy way of introducing a theme or message. In “The Withered Arm” the supernatural is a fundamental part of the plot and it changes the relationship between the people. The supernatural will continue to interest people, as long as we question our very existences.

I think that Thomas Hardy the author of the Withered Arm used the supernatural most efficiently because he just does not simplify the story like in “The Monkey’s Paw,” but he makes the story long and interesting using more effective language. He creates a real atmosphere in places where the reader becomes scared and unsure. Thomas Hardy made use of not only the supernatural, but of peoples’ feelings towards each other resulting from the supernatural, which makes the story more realistic.