Imagine you could wish for your heart’s desire. It could be anything you wanted. However, someone would have to die for your wish to come true. Remember, be careful of what you wish for; The consequences may be horrific. The idea of fate and symbolism, when mixed together, can make a lethal pair. Poe and Jacobs use fate and symbolism to paint an effective picture of death.
The idea of fate is used in both “The Monkey’s Paw” and “The Masque of the Red Death” very well. In “Monkey”, the paw manipulates faith. “It moved….. As I wished it twisted in my hand like a snake.” The twisting and movement represents someone or something manipulating fate for their wants. In “Masque”, the aristocracy also tried to manipulate fate. However, they weren’t wishing any material possessions; they were trying to control fate to survive the Red Death. “The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion.” By provisioning the abbey and taking other precautions, the partygoers were trying to cheat death.
Changing your destiny can have consequences. Op and Jacob’s both demonstrate this. In “Monkey”, the father wishes for two hundred pounds. While it does come true, there was a consequence. This was Herbert’s death. The same thing goes for “Masque.” Even though the people took precautions (a.k.a. manipulating fate) against the Red Death, they still died.
Edgar Allen Poe and W.W. Jacobs do an excellent job of using symbolism in their stories. Jacobs uses the monkey’s paw to symbolize someone trying to change or manipulate fate. The fact that is a monkey’s paw is important for one reason: A monkey is the only other animal besides humans that has opposable thumbs. In “Masque”, one of the seven deadly sins, pride, is used to symbolize fate manipulation. The people had so much pride that they thought they could do anything. They even thought they could change their destiny. Another symbol in “Monkey” is the chessboard and game at the beginning.
The chessboard symbolizes life. The pieces are people like us. They can move certain ways, but if they make a mistake or try to do something audacious, there can be consequences. Checkmate, or death, is one of those consequences. The mummer in “Masque” also symbolizes death. “The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closes scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat.” This description alone represents the Plague, the death of the people.
Poe and Jacobs both used the idea of changing our fate very well in their stories. They did the same with symbolism, too. These two literary concepts can create a vivid image for the reader. I feel there is one major theme you can get from these stories, especially “The Monkey’s Paw.” That is: Be careful what you wish for.