How does the way in which Herbert's personality is described foreshadow that misfortune might befall him when wishes are made on the paw in "The Monkey's Paw"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Because Herbert is rather flippant about the monkey's paw and its magical powers, it seems that something may happen to prove him wrong.

After the sergeant who has brought the monkey's paw and reluctantly given it to Mr. White departs, Herbert expresses his doubts about the power of this talisman. He remarks that if the tale behind the monkey's paw is no more truthful than the other stories of India which the old soldier has told them are, "we shan't make much out of it." Then, when his father admits to Mrs. White with embarrassment that he has given the old soldier some money for the paw, but adds that the sergeant did not want to take it, instead begging Mr. White to throw the talisman away, Herbert says "Likely," as he feigns horror:

"Why, we're going to be rich, and famous, and happy. Wish to be an emperor, Father to begin with; then you can't be tossed around."

Herbert dances around the table like a boy as his mother chases him "armed with an antimacassar." Then, after his father says that he does not know what to wish for as he has everything that he desires, Herbert suggests that he wish for £ 200, the amount left on the home mortgage. When the father says, "I wish for two hundred pounds," he is startled by the fact that the paw has moved after he completes his wish. "Well, I don't see the money," Herbert says skeptically. And, as his parents retire for the night, Herbert calls out facetiously,

"I expect you'll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed...and something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains."

After his parents retire, he sits by the fire and sees a horrible simian face; reaching for a glass of water on the table, he inadvertently grasps the paw instead. As he does so, a shiver runs down him, and he wipes his hand on his coat and leaves the room. This occurrence seems to foreshadow some misfortune for him.

The next morning when nothing has occurred, Mrs. White criticizes their having listened the the "nonsense" of the sergeant the night before. And, again Herbert makes a frivolous remark about the money dropping on Mr. White's head, and for him to not "break into" the money until he returns.

Eerily, Herbert 's behavior foreshadows the tragic events to come with his skeptical and flippant remarks about the wishes and the way in which the money might be procured, as well as his vision in the fire the night before.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial