Does "The Monkey's Paw" demonstrate that it is human nature to try and achieve more using short cut methods?

Expert Answers

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

The Whites do not believe that the paw is real when they first use it.

It is human nature to try to cut corners, or put in as little effort as possible to achieve success.  The White family seem like good people, but they make a wish on the monkey’s paw even after they are warned about how dangerous it is.

"I won't." said his friend doggedly. "I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire like a sensible man."

Part of the reason that Mr. White wishes on the paw might be curiosity.  After all, he clearly does not believe it will work.  He has heard the story about the paw’s origins and its risks, but he goes along with the wish.  Either he thinks his friend is making it up, or he thinks he was deceived. 

The Whites ask for money the first time.  This is a reasonable request.  Most people would probably ask for money.  However, the Whites do not even ask for an exorbitant amount of money.

"If you only cleared the house, you'd be quite happy, wouldn't you!" said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. "Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that'll just do it."

Mr. White only asks for two hundred pounds.  He is a little bit ashamed of his actions, because he thinks that wishing on the paw is silly.  He does not really believe that anything bad will happen.

Despite the problems with the first wish, the Whites use the paw again.  When Herbert is killed in an industrial accident, Mrs. White wants to use the paw to wish him back to life.  Her husband tells her that getting the money was a coincidence, and he doesn’t seem to want to believe that the paw actually worked.  Mrs. White is convinced.

"We had the first wish granted," said the old woman, feverishly; "why not the second?"

The fact that the Whites use the paw again after the tragic consequences of the first time shows even less judgement.  However, Mrs. White is devastated with grief, and not thinking correctly.  It is only when the paw is used a third time, to wish Herbert back into his grave, that the family really believes that the paw is real.

While people often want to get something for nothing, the Whites are not completely guilty of cutting corners.  They are guilty of making a decision without really thinking about all of the facts.  For this reason, they lost their son and suffered with the idea of his mangled body showing up at their door.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial