It is with bitter hindsight that the lonely, aggrieved Mr. and Mrs. White recognize the power of the talisman and the prophetic words of the sergeant who brought the fateful monkey's paw:
"Better let it burn," said the soldier, solemnly....
"If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again, like a sensible man."
But, at that time the Whites made light of the powers of such a small object. Jokingly, Mrs. White remarks on Sergeant Morris's warning, "Sounds like the Arabian Nights," she mocks, and then adds that while the men are wishing they can ask for her to have four arms to make her housework easier. While Mr. White musingly rubs the paw, Mrs. White teases, "If you only cleared the house, you'd be quite happy, wouldn't you?" to her husband. He smile "shamefacedly at his own credulity," then to mock his belief, he goes to the piano and plays a few dark chords, but wishes for two hundred pounds.
After the wish actually comes to fruition, and the Whites realize that the sum is an insurance payment on the life of their son, their joking disbelief from the initial ownership of the paw turns to horror at the workings of fate. For, in their efforts to return Herbert to life after the first wish is granted, they wish him back, but have forgotten that his body has been mangled in machinery. After seeing what a monster Herbert is, Mr. Smith prevents his wife from seeing their boy and they wish him back in the grave, separated from them forever, and Mr. White looks out upon the deserted road.