Did the events in "The Monkey's Paw" prove the fakir's point about what happens when people interfere with fate?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What "The Monkey's Paw" seems to illustrate is the truth that we often regret receiving things we wished for. This doesn't mean that we are interfering with fate, because fate is whatever happens to us, including getting things we regret. An example of the truth that we often regret receiving things we wished for would be wishing for an expensive car and then getting killed in it. I knew a man who bought one of those second-hand Rolls Royce Silver Shadows because he expected it to be a fine machine and also because he wanted to make a big impression on other people. The car kept breaking down, and the mechanics had to send to England for parts, some of which no longer existed. He told me it was the worst car he ever owned. He had to pay a lot of money to the dealer to take it back. There must be many examples in literature. In Maupassant's "The Necklace," the heroine wants to borrow what looks like a diamond necklace. When she loses it, she and her husband spend ten years paying for a duplicate, only to discover that the necklace was only a cheap fake. A woman might want to have a baby and give birth to a child who causes her nothing but misery and shame. If we were "interfering with fate" every time we decided we wanted something, we would never acquire anything. That was probably how the Indian fakir lived--a bowl of rice a day (gotten by begging), a pair of sandals, a loincloth, sleeping under a tree. When we wish for things we are not interfering with fate but risking disappointment and sometimes disillusionment. Read "The Great Good Place" by Henry James. Or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this tale by W.W. Jacobs, a family of modest means makes a wish (and that, too, a modest one) upon a talisman which leads to the death of their only son. For the sum of money asked for to finish off mortgage payments on their house corresponds to the penny to the compensation offered them when their son is killed in an accident at his workplace.

The fakir's point about fate was, "fate ruled people's lives and those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow." One message or theme of the story is indeed that man should not interfere in a supernatural way with his own destiny but should accept it in good faith "as is." The Whites could not be accused of being greedy, but their curiosity and fascination in occult forces got the best of them.

There is a very interesting article about how this relates to the confrontation of cultures, East and West, via colonialism. It is well worth a read and will give you further insight into this aspect of the story. You can view it by clicking on the first of the enotes references cited below:


Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Did the events in the story prove the old fakir's point? From a literary standpoint, we have to accept that they did and that his warning should have been taken seriously. How else could the story be interpreted? If we dismiss the fakir's assertion, then we would have to believe that the story's events were simply unusual coincidences and that the Whites either imagined the knocking at the door or someone knocked and then ran away for some unknown reason. The fakir's warning actually becomes the theme of the story.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Definitely. You have to appreciate the perverted wisdom of the fakir. It is clear that in the White family their attempt to divert fate and change what has happened results in a terrible tragedy, both in the first wish and in the second. It is only Mr. White who learns the lesson and thus uses the third wish to cancel their attemp to meddle in their fate.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of fate is a strong one in "The Monkey's Paw," and it's clear that the curse of the paw is the agent of fate in this story.  Too many things happen too coincidentally to demonstrate anything but an orchestration of fate.  The fakir was right:  interfering with fate (in this case, in the form of wishing on a monkey's paw) comes at a high cost. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The strongest force of fate is that of the Whites being made of the flawed fiber of human nature.  As human beings who curiosity succumb to the seven deadly sins, the White's innate greed overcame any reason.  This pull of greed is, of course, evinced in Herbert, who has not yet learned any of its consequences as, perhaps, the hesitant Mr. White has.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, there is no doubt that the fakir's point was proved. The didactic nature of this story is obvious, and as the previous poster mentioned, everything fit together to precisely to be coincidence.

subhaditya18 | Student

Indeed the fakir's words were true.First of all,the first wisher could not bear the tragedies that approached him.We know since his third wish was for death.This was because maybe he asked for gold,respect or a high position and he had to bear the consequences.Secondly,Sgt. Major Morris also had his three wishes fulfilled but a feeling of hatred arose in heart for the paw.He also had his wishes fulfilled but he had to bear the consequences.So,he wanted to burn the paw in Mr.White's house.And at last Mr.White had to bear the consequences for wishing.A tragedy approached after wishing for first time,and maybe a bigger tragedy would have approached if the second wish was not undone.The first tragedy was Herbert's death.So,it proves that whoever interferes with fate would be sorry and everyone should be happy with what they have.

jendariel | Student

I disagree with everyone, The Fakir made no point as his experiment was flawed. He may have proven that human lives were ruled by fate, but there was no interference. By the Fakir's own logic the whites were fated to receive the paw, fated to make their wishes, and fated to suffer from them. There is no interference and thus you cannot say that interfering with fate lead to sorrow.

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The Monkey's Paw

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