In "The Monkey's Paw," what are the types of conflict and some examples of each? 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Monkey's Paw" there are both external and internal conflicts.

  • External conflicts

There is a conflict between Mr. White and Herbert with Sergeant-Major Morris. The sergeant brings the monkey's paw to the Whites home, yet he does not want to let Mr. White possess it. After speaking of the three wishes--talking about the third wish he causes his teeth to tap against the glass from which he drinks--he throws the paw into the fireplace. But Mr. White retrieves it from the fire.

After he grabs the monkey's paw, the sergeant-major tells White, "if you must wish...wish for something sensible." However, there is alarm in his voice. But, Herbert White disparages the tale of the monkey's paw. Later he is rather flippant about the paw, pretending to be horrified and fearful of it when his father says that the sergeant major did not want to take any money for the monkey's paw. Then, Herbert jokes,

"Why, we're going to be rich, and famous and happy. Wish to be an emperor, Father, ...then you can't be tossed around."

This is a flippant statement made by Herbert, who certainly seems to challenge fate.

Another external conflict exists with Mr. and Mrs. White against the mangled Herbert who has been caught in the machinery at work so that the Whites would be awarded £200 for their first wish. The poor, disfigured Herbert returns when Mrs. White demands the second wish that her boy return without stipulating that he be restored to his original health. Then, when they hear the hideous sounds of the resurrected Herbert, the Whites must use their third wish in order to wish Herbert back into the grave.  

  • Internal conflicts

When he wishes for £200 that will pay off the mortgage on the house, Mr. White is rather nervous. He jumps when the paw seems to have moved in his hand. "A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three." Soon the parents of Herbert retire for the evening.
Herbert remains, gazing into the fire where he sees some horrible faces. One is so horrific that Herbert reaches for water to douse the fire. As his hand grasps the paw, he wipes his hand with a little shiver.

The next day, the Whites are still a little uncomfortable with what has transpired the night before. Mrs. White remarks, "The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days."

Mr. White says with a rather worried voice,

"Morris said the things happened so naturally...that you might, if you so wished, attribute it to coincidence....the thing moved in my hand; that I'll swear to."

Unfortunately, Mr. White's fears are well-founded as the next day a representative from Maw and Meggins informs the Whites that Herbert has been killed in the machinery at work, and the settlement is £200. Devastated by this news, Mrs. White suggests that night that maybe they should use their second wish to bring Herbert back to them.
Frantically, Mrs. White insists, so Mr. White makes the wish. Herbert does return, but not in the way they expect, forcing them to use their third wish to return poor Herbert to his grave.


Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two main conflicts make up the story: man vs. fate and man vs. man.

In wishing on the monkey's paw to receive a sum of money, the Whites attempt to control fate. Their wish comes true, but tragically through the death of their son Herbert. They receive the money, but in no way did they control their fate.

At the conclusion of the story, Mrs. White wants to use the monkey's paw again, this time to wish their son back to life. Mr. White opposes this vehemently, but finally gives in to her desperate plan. This sets the stage for the final conflict. When it seems that Herbert, out of his grave, stands on their porch, knocking to come in, Mrs. White struggles to unbolt the door to let him in, but her husband struggles to find the monkey's paw to make a third wish, that Herbert go back to his grave. Mr. White wins this conflict as Herbert suddenly disappears.

lmt1234 | Student

I just wanted to add to mshurns answer that the family's name is Mr. and Mrs. Whit not smith

malaknasser | Student

it is man vs man

man vs self

man vs nature