How do each of the Whites react when first hearing the legend of the monkey's paw in In W. W. Jacobs's short story "The Monkey's Paw"?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In W. W. Jacobs's paranormal short story "The Monkey's Paw," one of the first reactions when a monkey's paw is mentioned is idle curiosity, as expressed by Mrs. White when she asks, "Monkey's paw?" However, as soon as Sergeant-Major Morris speaks of magic, all three of the White characters become deeply interested.

The moment Morris pulls the monkey's paw out of his pocket also solicits very different reactions. Mrs. White is repulsed by the dried, mummified paw of a monkey. In contrast, the adult-aged son, Herbert White, grows immediately very fascinated by the appearance of the paw and takes it into his hands to examine it. The father also examines it, having taken it from Herbert, but his attitude seems much more reserved than the son's, as we can see when he asks, "And what is there special about it?," indicating he doubts upon appearances that there is anything special about the paw at all.

After Morris explains the spell that the fakir, an Indian holy man, had placed on the paw, the Whites's reactions vary again though the initial reaction is that all three characters laughed very hard to hear about the spell. Herbert even continues to show amusement when he asks Morris why doesn't go ahead and have three wishes fulfilled. In comparison, Mrs. White continues to express curiosity as she asks if his wishes had been granted and if anyone esle's wishes had. In contrast, Mr. White grows somberly serious and reflects that the paw is no longer useful to Morris if he has already been granted three wishes and asks, "What do you keep it for?" The seriousness of Mr. White's reaction continues to be expressed when he grabs the paw off of the fire and keeps it, paying Morris for the paw though he is warned by Morris to destroy it.

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The Monkey's Paw

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