Sergeant-Major Morris brings the paw into the White household with mixed feelings. He needs to pass the charm on to avoid its eventual curse, but he does not want to bring harm upon his friends. He holds the White family rapt with stories of the Far East and evokes their curiosity concerning the paw. Mr White is dubious but tempted at the prospects of profiting from its magical powers; Herbert jokes around and dismisses the fakir's curse as lark; Mrs White, being the most intuitive, has misgivings.
Morris at one point tosses the paw into the fire but Mr White retrieves it. Encouraged by Herbert, he makes a wish - for just enough money (£200) to finish paying off his house. He does not consider the horrible way in which such money will come...
When the Whites learn of Herbert's accident at the factory, they emotionally prepare themselves for his death, for he has been seriously wounded. It is not until sometime later after Herbert's funeral that Mrs White recalls that there are yet two wishes to be granted. Without hestitation she shrieks to her husband to wish for their son back.
Upon the frantic banging at the door, however, it is now Mr White who realizes the paw's potential for further harm. He cannot open the door and face whatever form used to be his son. He uses the last wish to put Herbert back "safely" in his grave where he belongs.
When they first see the monkey's paw, Mrs. White is repulsed, while her son examines it "curiously." Skeptically, Mr. White looks at it disspasionately and places it upon a table. They iincredulously laugh at the explanation of the paw's powers. Ironically, it is the skeptical Mr. White who retrieves the paw from the fire into which the sergeant major, its possessor, has cast it.
Then, when instructed on how to make use of the powers of the paw, Mrs. White 0jests, "Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?" so she can easily do housework. After the old soldier leaves, Herbert is rather doubtful as to the powers of the paw in light of the veracity of other stories told that night. As they doubtfully consider their wishes, the father is ashamed of his "own credulity," his son winks at the mother as Mr. White wishes for two hundred pounds. Herbert "frivolously" plays the piano in mockery, but the father cries out as the paw moves. Herbert gazes into fire and feels a premonition.
The next day, the family continues their jokes about the paw's powers yet entertaining half a belief. The unfortunate wish is granted; Herbert is dead and a compensation made. Ten days later, the distraught mother in desperate belief has her husband wish him alive. "It is foolish and wicked," declares Mr. White. Herbert returns in his last state: mangled. Horrified, they make the third wish.