The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

The Monkey's Paw book cover
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How does the White family first react to the monkey’s paw?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the beginning of "The Monkey's Paw," the White family is visited by Sergeant-Major Morris, the previous owner of the talisman, who tells them about it, and provides warning of its ill effects. However, the White family does not heed these warnings. At this point, it is clear they do not take the Monkey's Paw all that seriously. The conversation between them is quite lighthearted. Mrs. White, while cooking dinner, makes an offhand comment about wishing for additional hands (for which Morris rebukes them), and later, their son makes a suggestion that his father wish to become an emperor. In the end, when Mr. West admits to not knowing what to wish for, his son suggests wishing for two hundred pounds. This will become Mr. West's first wish. None of them foresee the gruesome manner through which this wish will be granted.

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Kelvin Brakus eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When the Sergeant-Major first mentions the power of the monkey's paw, the White family is very curious and eager to know more. Both Mr. White and Herbert, for example, pick up the paw to examine it further.

As the Sergeant tells the story, the White family is full of disbelief. They are conscious, for example, that their "light laughter" might irritate or offend the Sergeant.

Nevertheless, their curiosity regarding the power of the monkey's paw is enough to make them want to keep it. When the Sergeant throws it on the fire, Mr. White rescues it and asks how to make a wish. Similarly, Herbert tells his father to wish for £200.

Despite the Sergeant's warnings, the family does not listen. They are so captivated by the paw's potential power that they use it to make a wish. It is only when Herbert dies at work that they come to realize the true nature of the monkey's paw, but by then it is too late.

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