The Monkey's Paw Questions and Answers
by W. W. Jacobs

The Monkey's Paw book cover
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How did Mr. White phrase the second wish in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ten days after the Whites bury their son, Mrs. White suddenly demands that her husband make another wish using the monkey's paw in the middle of the night. She instructs him to grab the monkey's paw and wish for Herbert to be alive again. Mr. White follows his wife's instructions by retrieving the monkey's paw and making a second wish. Despite briefly arguing with his wife, Mr. White reluctantly holds the paw and says, "I wish my son alive again" (Jacobs, 12).

The way Mr. White phrases the second wish is particularly important, because he exclusively wishes for Herbert to be alive again, without any further stipulations. Mr. White does not elaborate on the condition of Herbert's body when he is resurrected from the grave, which adds to the suspense of the story. By simply wishing for Herbert to be "alive again," Mr. White opens the possibility that his son will return in zombie form. As a result of Mr. White's vaguely phrased wish, the reader imagines Herbert's decaying, grotesque corpse rising from the grave and returning home, where he attempts to enter his parents' house. Fortunately, Mr. White is able to make a third and final wish before his wife opens the front door to see her son's decaying body in zombie form.

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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His phrasing, "I wish my son alive again" is particularly important, because it affects how the monkey's paw will grant the wish. Because the paw is cursed, it is designed to grant your wishes, but not in the manner you intended. Thus, by wishing his son "alive again," Mr. White seals his fate. Herbert does indeed come back alive, but as some sort of zombie or monster. Mr. White recognizes this, and to save his wife, he uses his last wish to return Herbert to the grave.

Had he worded his wish differently, the results may have been different as well. However, since the paw was cursed, nothing good could come of its use.

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Lee Campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr. White, at his wife's frenzied insistence, stated "I wish my son alive again," as his second wish.  This followed his first wish that went terribly wrong, when he asked for 200 pounds.  The Whites received their wish in the form of a  settlement from the firm Maw and Meggins, compensation for the death of their son in an accident in which he was caught in the machinery.