illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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In "The Monkey's Paw," what happens immediately after Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds?

When Mr. White wishes for two hundred pounds in "The Monkey's Paw," there is a loud crash from the piano, and the monkey's paw seems to twist in his hand, which makes him shriek in fear.

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The details surrounding the monkey's paw contribute to the eerie and foreboding tone of the short story, and the sense of darkness surrounding the monkey's paw increases just after Mr. White makes his wish.

It isn't even Mr. White's idea to wish for the money. Just prior to this moment, he comments that he doesn't know what to wish for because he has everything he could possibly need. It is his son, Herbert, who suggests that his father wish for enough money to pay off their home, adding that it would take two hundred pounds to accomplish this goal. Herbert sits down at the piano and begins to play a chord.

Mr. White distinctly makes his wish for two hundred pounds, and this is immediately followed by a "fine crash" from the piano at which Herbert has been sitting. Mr. White cries out as his wife and son rush toward him.

Clearly Mr. White has been horrified by more than the piano discord, and he informs his family that the monkey's paw "twisted in [his] hands like a snake." Herbert then flippantly comments that he will likely never see the money they wished for.

All of these events darkly foreshadow the outcome of the wish, which is rooted in Herbert's desires. Indeed, Herbert never will see the two hundred pounds because his parents will be presented with the money following his death. This leads to the climax of the novel as Mr. and Mrs. White use the paw again to attempt to bring Herbert back to life.

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At the beginning of W. W. Jacobs's classic short story "The Monkey's Paw," Sergeant-Major Morris visits the White family and tells them his entertaining adventure stories from his time in India. Mr. White then brings up the topic of the monkey's paw, and Major Morris reluctantly elaborates on its magical powers. Morris tells the Whites that an old fakir placed a spell on it to prove that fate ruled people's lives and that those "who tried to change it would be sorry." Morris then ominously mentions that he already had his three wishes and proceeds to throw the monkey's paw into the fire.

Unfortunately, Mr. White rescues the monkey's paw from the fire and listens to more of their friend's adventure stories. After Morris leaves, Mr. White holds up the monkey's paw and considers making a wish. Herbert helps his father out by suggesting that he wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage. Herbert then sits down at the family's piano as his father makes the wish. Upon making the first wish, there is a loud, crashing sound from the piano, and Mr. White cries in fear.

Herbert purposely scares his father by playing the crashing cords, but Mr. White insists that the monkey's paw also moved in his hand. Mr. White tells his family, "It moved...As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake" (Jacobs, 4). Overall, there is a loud, crashing sound from the piano, Mr. White screams in fear, and the monkey's paw twists in Mr. White's hand when he makes his first wish.

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Shortly after Sergeant-Major Morris leaves the White residence, Mr. White studies the magic monkey's paw and mentions that he is unsure of what to wish for because it seems like he already has everything he wants. Herbert then suggests that his father wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the house and proceeds to play a few cords on the family's piano. Mr. White then holds up the talisman and wishes for two hundred pounds.

As soon as Mr. White makes his first wish, W. W. Jacobs writes, "A fine crash from the piano greeted his words, broken by a frightened cry from the old man." Herbert attempts to startle his father by playing loud, crashing chords on the piano, and Mr. White shrieks in fear.

Mrs. White and her son react by rushing towards Mr. White, who claims that the monkey's paw twisted in his hand like a snake. Herbert then picks up the monkey's paw, and Mrs. White blames it on her husband's imagination. The crashing of the piano, Mr. White's frightened shriek, and the sudden movement of the monkey's paw heightens the suspense of the scene and contributes to the eerie mood of the story. At this point in the story, the White family is unaware that the monkey's paw is evil and that Mr. White's modest wish will have disastrous effects.

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Immediately after Mr. White makes the wish for two hundred pounds, three things happen:

A fine crash from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man. His wife and son ran toward him.

His skeptical and fun-loving son Herbert plays a loud chord on the piano, as if to create an effect of something like a magical feat being performed. His father drops the monkey's paw because, as he tells his wife and son, it seemed to twist in his hand like a snake as he made his wish. Throughout the story, it is never clear whether the wishes are being granted by the monkey's paw or they only appear to be granted as a result of coincidence. As far as the paw seeming to twist in Mr. White's hand is concerned, that may have been caused by his fright when Herbert startled him with the "fine crash" from the piano, which was more or less what Herbert intended.

After that, nothing happens. The three family members stay up a little while longer and then all go to bed. That is the end of Part I.

Mr. White is obviously a modest man. If he had wished for something grander, such as a mansion or a big bag full of gold coins, then the reader would feel sure the monkey's paw had supernatural powers. Mr. White only wishes for two hundred pounds, though. It could have been sheer coincidence that Herbert would get killed in a factory accident the next day and the company would decide to give Mr. and Mrs. White the sum of two hundred pounds as compensation for losing their son.

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