One example of the theme of there being no shortcuts in life in the attainment of goals is the first wish that Mr. White makes for £200, the amount needed to "clear the house" (pay off the mortgage).
After the sergeant relents and departs without the monkey's paw, Herbert jokes about his family's using the paw and becoming "rich, famous, and happy." He suggests to his mother to wish to be an emperor and his father to wish to "clear the house" and then he would be happy. In mock drama, he sits at the piano and strikes some dark chords in Gothic fashion. But, with some belief in the power of the paw, Mr. White makes the wish for two hundred pounds. When it does not appear, he comments, "Well, I don't see the money...and I bet I never shall."
However, he does get his wish. But, because he has not made any stipulations upon the source of this money, the White family suffers tragic consequences: Herbert is killed at work, and his father and mother receive the sum of exactly £200, which was the company's compensation to the family for the loss of their son. After Herbert's death, Mr. and Mrs. White are so desolate that they cannot feel any joy. Finally, they trust the magical paw to bring their son back, but again they forget to make stipulations, and Herbert returns in his maimed state. Mr. White tells his horrified wife that they must return him to the grave. So, the Whites must spend their lives in quiet desperation and isolation.