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," when Mr. White makes his second wish, he wishes his son were alive again. How could he have worded his wish differently so that his son came back as his old self?

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In the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs , when Mr. White makes his second wish with the talisman, he might have enabled his son to come back as his old self by saying something like this: "I wish for Herbert to come back to...

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In the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, when Mr. White makes his second wish with the talisman, he might have enabled his son to come back as his old self by saying something like this: "I wish for Herbert to come back to life whole and healthy as he was before the accident."

However, this would have taken considerable foresight and a keen awareness that the wishes of the monkey's paw could easily twist into curses. When he makes the second wish, Mr. White is not yet fully convinced that the monkey's paw is purely evil. After his wife insists he wish again, he dismisses his son's death and the arrival of the 200 pounds as "coincidence." Mr. White might have chosen his words more carefully so that his son would come back as he had been before, but according to hints and clues planted throughout the story, something else terrible would have happened.

The first indication that readers receive that the monkey's paw is something bizarre and frightening comes from Sergeant-Major Morris when he first tells the family about it. He has had his three wishes and does not seem to have benefited from them. He tells the Whites that the fakir who put the spell on the talisman "wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who tried to change it would be sorry." He then tells the family that the first man who got the paw used his third wish to ask for death. Morris is so horrified and disgusted by the monkey's paw that he throws it in the fire, and after Mr. White retrieves it, he urges him to cast it back into the flames.

Mr. White first wishes for 200 pounds, and it is obvious that this wish causes the death of his son. He should have destroyed the talisman then, when he realizes that no good can come from using it. Instead, he uses it a second time, and then finally, with the third wish, he has to send his son back to the grave.

We see, then, that Mr. White might have worded his wish differently so that his son would have returned whole in health and appearance; but another evil thing would have happened to balance it out.

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