In "The Monkey's Paw," Sergeant-Major Morris tells his friend to make wishes sensibly. Why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sergeant-Major Morris has learned from bitter personal experience just how dangerous the monkey's paw can be. He's acutely aware of the paw's history, of how an old swami put a curse on it to prevent foolish people from messing around with the forces of fate. Unfortunately, the Whites are just...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Sergeant-Major Morris has learned from bitter personal experience just how dangerous the monkey's paw can be. He's acutely aware of the paw's history, of how an old swami put a curse on it to prevent foolish people from messing around with the forces of fate. Unfortunately, the Whites are just the kind of fools the Indian holy man had in mind when he placed the curse on the monkey's paw. It's patently obvious to Morris that the Whites don't take it seriously at all; to them, the paw's just a load of harmless mumbo-jumbo. That explains why he throws it onto the fire; he knows already that the Whites most definitely won't use their wishes responsibly. Sadly, he's eventually proved right.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The sergeant does this because when he first tells the Whites that the monkey's paw has the power to grant a person three wishes, they simply do not take him seriously. Mrs White remarks that the story sounds like something out of the Arabian Nights, which are well known as tales of pure magic and fantasy.

Mrs White goes on in the same frivolous manner:

Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?

Then the Whites all laugh as the sergeant hastily intervenes to prevent Mr White from making such a ridiculous wish.

The sergeant actually believes in the paw's abilities because, as it seems, he has experienced them for himself with grim results, while the Whites are just treating it all as a huge joke at this stage. However, they are very soon to have a wish granted in the most appalling manner, and then the mood changes and remains dark for the rest of the story. In fact, the tale becomes one of gothic horror, although the horror remains powerfully understated.

 

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team