How does each member of the White family react when first hearing the legend of the monkey's paw?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Whites appear to be a normal, happy family in the beginning of W. W. Jacobs' short story "The Monkey's Paw." There are, however, hints that evil lurks including the fact that they live at Laburnum Villa (the Laburnum tree can be poisonous) and the night is "cold and wet." The family is made up of Mr. and Mrs. White and their son Herbert. Each family member's reaction is different when Sergeant Major Morris shows them the monkey's paw. Mrs. White is at first curious when it is mentioned but then repulsed when the Sergeant Major produces the talisman. Curiosity turns to disgust. In contrast, Herbert readily takes the paw and examines it "closely." Mr. White is obviously quite interested in the paw because he brings up the topic which the Sergeant Major had mentioned to him a few days earlier. Eventually this interest leads Mr. White into acquiring the paw from Morris, and it's possible that he may have actually believed the story, thinking that ownership of the paw could be a benefit. As for Mrs. White and Herbert, they are dubious over the Sergeant Major's claims that it has magic power. Mrs. White suggests that it is from the "Arabian Nights." Likewise, Herbert finds humor in the paw when he tells his father to "wish to be an emperor." Even after Mr. White wishes for "two hundred pounds" and the paw seems to move, the family goes back to its normal life and the paw is forgotten, "pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues." Only later in the day is the paw's true evil revealed to Mr. and Mrs. White.

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The Monkey's Paw

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