Both the Withered Arm and the Monkey’s Paw are set in 19th century England. They both contain supernatural events. A supernatural event is an occurrence that cannot be explained by the normal laws of nature. The Monkey’s Paw focuses on the arrival of Sergeant Major Morris into the cosy White family home. The Sergeant has been serving in India for the last twenty years and has acquired a monkey’s paw which he says, “It had a spell put on it by an old fakir, a very holy man” and it grants three wishes to its owner.
Mr White, his wife and their son, Herbert are very curious, but the sergeant warns the family of the consequences and tells Mr White if he was to wish for something, it would be best wishing for something sensible. The sergeant leaves them with the paw and the White family discuss what they should wish for first. Mr White decides that he would like to pay off the mortgage so he wishes for two hundred pounds. They wait and see if something immediately happens. Nothing does, so they assume that the sergeant had given them a useless old paw and go to bed.
Later the next day a representative from Maw and Meggins, the company that Herbert worked at, called round to the house to inform the family that Herbert had been involved in a tragic accident, and had been killed. As compensation, the family received two hundred pounds! A week passed and one night Mr White woke up to the sound of his wife sobbing. Suddenly she remembers the paw and pleads with her husband to wish their son back. However, Herbert had been mutilated and Mr White could only recognise him by his clothes when he had to indentify him. Mrs White persuaded her husband to wish for their son back from the grave.
Later in the night, the old man heard a knock at the door. He ignored this but eventually his wife heard the thud at the door and rushed downstairs to open the door. When Mr. White cried “don’t let it in” his wife replied “You’re afraid of your own son”. Whilst she was struggling with the bolt, Mr White scrambled around on the floor looking for the paw. Finally he found the talisman and wished “it” to go back. Because he was scared of the idea of his wife seeing their son’s mutilated corpse, as it might traumatise her or worse push her to commit suicide.
Clearly the supernatural events in this powerful short story are the arrival of the monkey’s paw that has had a curse cast upon it by a fakir, the wishes it grants to its owner and the consequences. The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy concentrates on the arrival of Farmer Lodge’s new wife Gertrude. Soon we find out that Farmer Lodge has had a child with another woman called Rhoda Brook. He denies the child’s existence and the fact Rhoda had his baby when they were not married. Which was frowned upon in those times and if it surfaced the family would become outcasts of the village.
Rhoda seems envious and maybe even obsessed with Gertrude and asks her son to spy on Mrs Lodge. One night Rhoda has a nightmare that Gertrude was mocking her, waving her wedding ring in front of her. Rhoda was enraged and seized Gertrude’s arm and her vision ended. After some time Gertrude came to visit Rhoda and told her that her arm was not well. Gertrude showed Rhoda and there on the exact arm she had grabbed in her nightmare were four finger marks. Rhoda immediately asked her when she discovered such an ailment. Sure enough it was the same day Rhoda had grasped that arm in her nightmare.
She was completely mystified at the unnatural event. The summer drew on and Rhoda dreaded the arrival of Gertrude because it made Rhoda scared that it might surface that she was the person who caused Gertrude’s illness. One morning Gertrude called upon Rhoda and asked about a man called Conjuror Trendle who is said to “have powers normal folk do not”. Gertrude sees this as her last chance of curing her disfiguration and asks if Rhoda could take her to him the next day. Unwillingly, Rhoda agrees. By afternoon on the next day Rhoda was dreading the trip to meet the mystical Trendle.