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What made the monkey paw move in Mr. White's hand in W. W. Jacob's "The Monkey's Paw"?

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liapalaria | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 31, 2011 at 6:08 AM via web

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What made the monkey paw move in Mr. White's hand in W. W. Jacob's "The Monkey's Paw"?

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

Posted May 31, 2011 at 6:57 AM (Answer #1)

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The mystery of the monkey's paw is never fully explained. We are only told that it has "magic" powers and that it can grant three wishes to three different people. We know that it successfully granted its first six wishes before Mr. White attains it, and Sergeant-Major Morris was not anxious for it to display its talents again, tossing it in the fire in order to destroy it. It is retrieved, and Mr. White eventually makes his first wish. When he does so, he shrieks and drops the paw to the floor.

"It moved," he cried, with a glance of disgust... "As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake."

There is no mention of whether the paw moved again on the second or third wishes, but we do know that they successfully came true--in a most hideous fashion.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 8, 2012 at 11:41 AM (Answer #2)

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What is so intriguing about "The Monkey's Paw" is that everything could have a natural explanation. The mummified paw may have no magical powers at all. The fact that the Whites receive two hundred pounds after wishing for it could be a pure coincidence. It could be purely Mr. White's imagination that the paw moved when he made the wish. And the person knocking at the door at the end of the story might not be their son Herbert. (Wouldn't it be funny if they opened the door and found that it was only some motorist who wanted to use their phone because his car had broken down?) You don't have to have possession of a mummy's paw or any other supposedly magical object in order to make one wish, or three wishes, or a dozen wishes. Everybody is free to make a wish any time he or she feels like doing so. It can be an interesting experiment. And if you wish for something, there is a likelihood that you will get it, because your thoughts and actions will be directed towards attaining the object of your wish. What the story suggests is that getting what you wish for may not give the satisfaction you expected but could bring just the opposite. This irony is often experienced in real life.

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