What was Herbert's attitude toward the monkey's paw?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Herbert's general attitude towards life is youthful, irreverent, playful, and optimistic. He is always joking, and he makes jokes after his father obtains the monkey's paw. When Mr. White voices his first wish, Herbert is at the piano.

As Herbert played a loud, dramatic chord the old man suddenly cried out in a trembling voice. His wife and son ran towards him.

Everything Herbert says about the monkey's paw shows disbelief and ridicule.

‘Well, I don’t see the money,’ said Herbert....And I am sure I never will.'

‘You’ll probably find the money in a big bag in the middle of your bed,’ Herbert joked as he said goodnight to them.

‘Don’t spend any of the money before I come back,’ Herbert said, going to the door.

All of Herbert's skepticism is intended to create the impression that the monkey's paw is a fake and that nothing at all is going to happen. The reader is in for a shock when he learns that it was the skeptical Herbert who made it possible for his father's first wish to come true. Herbert was killed in a factory accident and his company is paying the parents two hundred pounds as compensation, the same amount Mr. White wished for.

Herbert is presented as youthful, good-natured, and always joking, in order to suggest by contrast how empty and desolate the household seems without him. This tragedy and its aftermath of gloom are what prompt Mrs. White to insist on her husband using his second wish to bring Herbert back. But Herbert's fun-loving personality will also serve as a contrast to the living-dead Herbert who seems to be outside knocking at the door after White's second wish.

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