I am teaching this to Grade 10 students and I was wondering what you thought of the first owner's third wish for death? The Sergeant Major does not give the reader any detail about the first owner's first two wishes, so we have to make assumptions that he met with a horrible outcome. What could he have possibly wished for?
My other thought is, if the Sergeant Major knows that the first owner wished for death, why did he take the monkey's paw? He doesn't tell us what he wished for, but he gives in to Mr. White who obviously thinks that he can make responsible wishes.
To respond to the second paragraph:
There seems to be something compelling about the monkey's paw, suggesting the inevitability of fate. Like the men at a carnival who watch one after another a fail at striking the plate hard enough to send the ball rushing to strike the bell, still, the next one believes that he can do hit harder and ring the bell.
The temptation is too great for a risk-taker like Mr. White. He belives he is different and he does not make a greedy wish, so he figures he is safe.
I think the purpose of the monkey's paw - to teach man the folly of trying to interfere in fate - is clearly shown in the White family as it was obviously shown in the life of the Sergeant Major. I think one of the strengths of this story is that we are not told what he wished for. We are however given an insight into the effect of the monkey's paw on his life, as evidenced by his 'blanched' features. I like the point made in #2 - I too question the way that the Sergeant Major gave the paw to the white family and question his motives.
Who really believes such things? The Sergeant Major didn't believe anything bad would happen to him, just as the Whites don't believe any harm will come to them. It's just human nature to be both enticed and dismissive of such things. Who knows what the other wishes for the previous owner were--by the end the pattern is clear and the outcome will be the same for all who possess the paw.
I think the Sergeant Major took the monkey's paw because he didn't really believe in the nature of it. It was a lark. My question is did he give in to Mr. White's request, or did he craftily lure him in-dangling the bait in front of the White's until they were hooked? Was there something about the monkey's paw that required the owner to keep it until another person willingly took possession?
but what happend to the first owner??