The Uncanny Monkey

The story ‘The Monkey’ by Stephen King centers on a cymbal-banging monkey toy that is possessed by an evil spirit. Every time the monkey claps its little cymbals together, a nearby living thing dies. The monkey is found in a family’s attic in an old toy chest by a group of children, unknowing that their father was tormented by the monkey years ago, when it worked its lethal magic on his family and friends. The father takes the monkey and throws it in the lake in his backyard. At the end of the story is an excerpt of a newspaper article, which talks about hundreds of dead fish floating in the lake.

I find this to be a very uncanny story  as it has strong associations with childhood and gives a time when we project consciousness into toys, giving them personality, character and life a more sinister tone. Freud makes a clear connection between the uncanny impression and childhood fears. The monkey is equally as uncanny as it plays upon hidden fears of death we may subtly feel looking at the lifelike quality of  the moving toy and its skeletal grimace (assuming the toy monkey is similar to this image). We may vaguely feel an uncertainty about the presence of a consciousness that animates its movement, it is not alive but appears to be brought to life by movement. The blurred distinctions between life and death and the dead we may sense create an uncanny impression. Death is abjected; we do not want to confront it and it represents a threat to our order and wellbeing, and anything that may lead us to address it either consciously or subconsciously causes us to react with fear or repulsion. The monkey toy is therefore a strong character for a horror story.


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