In the short story "The Monkey's Paw," what happens when Mr. White uses the monkey's paw?

In "The Monkey's Paw," when Mr. White uses the monkey's paw to wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage, Herbert dies in a tragic work accident. However, the wish comes true when the company offers the Whites two hundred pounds in compensation. When Mr. White makes his second wish, Herbert's zombie corpse returns from the grave and knocks at their door. After Mr. White makes his third wish, Herbert's undead corpse suddenly disappears.

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In W. W. Jacobs's classic short story "The Monkey's Paw," Sergeant-Major Morris brings an enchanted monkey's paw to the White residence and explains that an old fakir placed a spell on the talisman "to show that fate ruled people's lives." Sergeant-Major Morris then warns Mr. White about wishing upon the monkey's paw and even throws the malevolent talisman into the fire.

However, Mr. White retrieves the paw from the fire and proceeds to wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage. Mr. White is completely unaware that the evil monkey's paw will negatively affect his life and result in tragedy. The following day, Mr. and Mrs. White are visited by a messenger and receive the devastating news that their son Herbert has died in a work-related accident. The messenger also informs the couple that Herbert's company will be giving them two hundred pounds as compensation for his death.

Almost two weeks after Herbert's tragic death, Mrs. White wakes up in the middle of the night and suddenly realizes that her husband's first wish came true. Mrs. White also recognizes that they still have two more wishes and instructs her husband to use the monkey's paw to wish Herbert back from the grave. Mr. White reluctantly holds the enchanted talisman and makes his second wish by saying, "I wish my son alive again" (8).

Later that night, the couple hears knocking at their front door, and Mrs. White dashes down the stairs to let Herbert inside. The second wish has also come true, enabling Herbert to return from the grave as an undead corpse. Mr. White understands that Herbert is not the same and fears witnessing his son's zombie corpse. As Mrs. White struggles to unlock the door, Mr. White manages to find the monkey's paw and make his third and final wish. Jacobs does not explicitly state Mr. White's third wish, but it results in Herbert's disappearance. Immediately after uttering the third wish, the knocking ceases, and Herbert's zombie corpse vanishes.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 20, 2020
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Mr. White makes three wishes on the monkey's paw, each one of which gives him considerably more than he bargained for. His first wish, which is nothing more than a joke, is for £200 to pay off his mortgage, a tidy sum of money in those days. Mr. White does in due course receive the money but not in the manner he expected. His son, Herbert, is tragically killed in a workplace accident, for which Mr and Mrs. White receive £200 as compensation.

Grief-stricken by the loss of their son, Mr and Mrs. White decide to use the monkey's paw to make a second wish: to bring their son back from the dead. But when there's a strange, sinister knocking sound at the door, they both realize that their son will be in such a hideous condition that they won't want to see him after all. It's time, then, for the monkey's paw to be used one last time. Mr. White makes his third and final wish, cancelling the previous one. The knocking at suddenly stops and when Mr. White opens the door, he finds there's no one there.

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Mr. White was fascinated with the monkey’s paw. When the Sergeant-Major threw it into the fire, he hastily retrieved it. He wanted the three wishes. The Sergeant-Major warned him about the consequences and, “…pressed me again to throw it away.” (pg 3) But Mr. White was determined to test the monkey’s paw for the three wishes. However, when it came time to make a wish, Mr. White said, “I don’t know what to wish for, and that’s a fact…it seems to me I’ve got all I want.” (pg 3)

So his son tells him, jokingly, to wish for two hundred pounds. Nothing immediately happens, so everyone thinks it is a hoax. However, the next day, a man arrives from Maw and Meggins. He informs Mr. and Mrs. White that their son got caught in some machinery at work and died. The firm admits no liability for the accident, but due to the son’s dedicated services, the company wanted to give Mr. and Mrs. White some compensation. It was two hundred pounds. Their wish had come true.

The death of their son hit them both hard. Suddenly the old woman yelled out that they could use the monkey’s paw to wish their son back to life. The old man wasn’t sure he wanted to wish his son back to life since the son had been so badly mangled in the machinery that he didn’t even recognize him. He is reluctant to use the monkey’s paw again for fear of what may happen. However, he does as she wishes and wishes his son alive again.

They wait patiently for a response to the wish, and then there is a knock on the door. The old man is afraid to open it, although his wife is eager to see her son again. Finally the third knock is very loud, and the woman insists on opening the door. The man is so fearful of what is on the other side of the door that he grabs the talisman and makes his third and final wish: that his son not come back to life. The knocking suddenly ceases and the road outside the house is deserted.

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