Explain how, in the short story, 'The Monkey's Paw,' Morris had acquired the talisman. Also mention what had happened to its previous owner and why the fakir had decided to put a spell on it.  

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In W. W. Jacobs' horror short story "The Monkey's Paw," Sergeant-Major Morris arrives at the White's home at Laburnam Villa with an object of perverse interest to his guests: It is a shriveled monkey's paw, said to have the power to grant three wishes to its first three owners. Morris, the second owner of the paw, received it after its first owner wished for and received death as his third wish. Morris's wishes have already come true, and he warns his hosts to "let it burn." According to the sergeant-major, the old fakir who put the spell on the paw "wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow." As all three owners of the paw eventually discovered, misery soon followed.

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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It is obvious that sergeant-major Morris is not much interested in discussing the magical talisman in his possession and tries to avoid talking about it. However, it is Mr White's insistence that makes him talk, albeit begrudgingly, about how the paw came to be in his possession.

He states that he had acquired the paw from 'the first man' who had had his three wishes and that the last one was for death. Obviously the magical object had no owner then and Morris decided to claim it. Alternatively, the previous possessor might have promised it to him. One can only assume that the previous owner had been a friend or associate of his whose first two wishes must have had devastating outcomes resulting in his wish for death.

The impression one gains of the Sergeant is that he must have been a risk-taker for, even when knowing that the previous owner's possession of the talisman resulted in his demise, he still took the object and made his three wishes.

Morris also explains why the fakir had put a spell on the paw by saying:

"He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

It is clear that the fakir wanted to teach those who dismissed the power of destiny a lesson in that he gave them a choice to decide their own fates by virtue of the three wishes. It becomes apparent that both the the first owner and later, sergeant-major Morris, had been foolhardy enough to test fate and had suffered the dire consequences of their decisions.

The Sergeant had clearly learnt his lesson. Although we never learn about the outcomes his three choices had had, it is clear from his demeanor that they were not favorable. He throws the paw into the fireplace, for example, and is unable to answer, with any assurance, Mr White's question about whether he would have the three wishes again if he could. Furthermore, he asserts that the paw 'has caused enough mischief already.'

It is, therefore, pertinently ironic that Mr White insists on being given the talisman in spite of Morris's grim warning. In the end, the Sergeant's gloomy tale foreshadows the terrible disaster which is to befall the Whites.  

kboy2k's profile pic

kboy2k | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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He aquired from amna who's last wish was for death. We don't know what the first two wishes were but that is how Morris came to possess the paw.

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