How do the characters change throughout the story? "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Regarding the magical powers of the monkey's paw that Sergeant Major Morris leaves with the Whites, Mr. and Mrs. White and Herbert go from incredulous to believing and finally to giving acceptance to fate.  During his visit one cold and wet evening, when the sergeant tells Mr. White to hold the paw up in his right hand and make a wish aloud, Mrs. White facetiously remarks, "Sounds like the Arabian Nights."  Then, as her husband pulls the paw from his pocket, all three of the Whites burst into laughter. But, the sergeant, who having regarded their act with alarm, warns them to be sensible, and he departs.

Herbert convinces his father to make a wish for enough money to pay the mortgage; Mr. White wishes for two hundred pounds.  Unfortunately, the next day the wish comes true.  Before it does, however, the "frivolous Herbert" makes a joke about it, and his mother laughs as she says goodbye to her son, remarking,

Herber will have some more of his funny remarks, I expect, when he comes home."

It is only when the visitor from Maw and Meggins, where Herbert works, arrives and reports that Herbert has been caught in the machinery and hands them two hundred pounds that Mr. and Mrs. White begin to believe in the paw's magical powers. Both faint.

Finally, after having buried their only child, all that is left to them. the Whites become hopelessly resigned to their fate of loneliness.  One night, Mrs. White weeps as she look out the empty window.  Then, she remembers the monkey's paw and urges her husband to wish that Herbert will come back.  "We had the first wish granted...why not the second?" she asks.  "A coincidence," stammers Mr. White, who is yet doubtful.  Nevertheless, against his feeling that to do so is wicked, Mr. White wishes for Herbert to be alive again.  This time the wish comes true, but again with horrific results as the mangled corpse is resurrected from its grave.  A horrified believer, and one who now accepts the fakir's point that "fate ruled people's lives and those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow," Mr. White seeks the paw with which to make the third wish to return Herbert to his grave.