How does the sergeant-major come to hand over the paw to someone else? 

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Douglas Horley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the moment Mr White's old friend Sergeant-Major Morris begins to talk about the monkey's paw he is clearly uneasy and wishes to avoid the subject,

"What was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey's paw or something Morris"

"Nothing," said the soldier hastily, "Leastways, nothing worth hearing." (p.1)

When pressed, Morris begins to explain more about the paw and it's magical power. Of course as we might expect, Morris's uneasiness and the sinister appearance of the paw are ignored as human curiosity and greed exceed the family's caution - particularly in the case of the son Herbert. The idea of being able to have three wishes, however fanciful it may seem, is a deeply ingrained desire in the human psyche - a quick pathway to a life of ease and luxury. Not even Morris's dark explanation of how he came into be in possession of the paw (the first owner had wished for death, which foreshadows the perils of the paw to come) deters the White family.

Morris prefers to be rid of the talisman and throws it into the fire, but with naive enthusiasm Mr White rescues it and Morris relents to a transfer of ownership,

"Pitch it on the fire again like a sensible man.....I warn you of the consequences" (p.2) 

Mr White later tells his wife that he gave the reluctant Morris a little money in exchange for the talisman.

The monkey's paw is thus transferred to its third owner, where its power to grant three wishes to three separate owners will finally be concluded. For the reader, there are some ominous signs that the White family may be about to bring terrible misfortune upon themselves.