When the sergeant major arrives at the Whites in the exposition of "The Monkey's Paw," he tells them that three men can own the monkey's paw. The first man had two wishes granted; however, his last wish was for death. And, when Mrs. White asks him if he had three wishes, the sergeant major replies shakily that he did. Evidently, there is something sinister about the monkey's paw that has had a spell put on it by an aged fakir because the sergeant suddenly tosses the paw into the fire.
But, Mr. White retrieves it, and the sergeant warns him of the consequences and says,
"...don't blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire like a sensible man."
Despite the warning of the soldier and his fear of the paw, the Whites go ahead and make a wish. But, when Mr. White does make his wish for two hundred pounds, he does not stipulate how the money will be procured; and, as things turn out, the money arrives, but it is an insurance payment on the life of Herbert White, the so, who was killed in an accident at work. Distraught and heart-broken at the loss of their son, Mrs. White demands that Mr. White wish for Herbert to come back to life. Herbert does return; however, he is mangled and hideous, so Mr. White must use the third wish to send his son back to the grave.
Thus, the reader perceives that in making their wishes, the Whites are not cautious and they fail to consider the consequences. In fact, their undoings are results of their personal shortcomings, Herein lies the danger of the monkey's paw: it fulfills one's wish, but it does so literally without eliminating extenuating circumstances for the one wishing.