How did the author get the message/theme across to the reader?"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the themes of W.W. Jacobs's tale, "The Monkey's Paw" is that in a fateful twist of the human condition, often people's attributes work against them. All three of the members of the White family exhibit this human situation:

1.  Mr. White is fairly reasonable, he is reckless in minor ways.  For instance, he demonstrates this tendency toward recklessness as he plays chess with his son.  When Herbert calls check, Mr. White moves right into the path of "Checkmate" and he becomes angry.  As soon as the sergeant-major, who has finished his portentous tale of the old fakir's monkey's paw, throws the talisman into the fire, Mr. White retrieve's it and asks to have it.  And, while he is skeptical about the powers of the paw, he does wish upon it--"smiling shamefacedly aat his own credulity"--, believing that his pratical wish for the mortgage money can bring no harm.

2.  Mrs. White also possesses a trait that leads to her fate:  She is conciliatory to her husband's violent outburst after he loses the chess game to their son, telling him "...perhaps you'll win the next one," and while she asks questions about the monkey's paw, she is content to go along with the men in their actions regarding the talisman.  But, once the news comes of Herbert's death, in her maternal love, she coerces her husband to wish that Herbert will be brought back from the dead, and her attribute works against her as Herbert, mangled from his horrific death as he was caught in the machinery at work, returns from the dead.

3.  Herbert White is fairly good-natured and lightly teases his father about the monkey's paw's magic: 

"If the tale about the monkey's paw is not more truthful than those hea has been telling us...we shan't make much out of it....Wish to be an emperor, Father, to begin with; then you can't be bossed around."

However, if Herbert had not treated the powers of the paw so lightly, he may have not lossed his life.