Sergeant Major Morris’ face whitens when he reveals that he has had three wishes. What can you infer about the paw?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In W. W. Jacobs's short story "The Monkey's Paw," the narrator describes Sergeant-Major Morris's blotchy face as turning white when he replies, "I have," to Herbert's question why he doesn't ask for three wishes. Morris further shows agitation and deep thought when he taps his glass against his "strong teeth" when replying that he did get his three wishes granted. In addition, he speaks so gravely when talking about the paw granting wishes that the whole White family hushes up and listens. All of these are descriptions of physical reactions to both fear and to the understanding that a situation is extremely serious, and all of these reactions show us that the paw is far more harmful than beneficial.

Individuals grow white when they feel afraid because their heart beats faster, making the blood rush from their head and appendages to their heart. Hence, the fact that Morris grows white when thinking of his three wishes being granted shows us that something horrible and fearful has happened to him. Having his wishes granted was such a horrifying experience that he dreads having anyone else have the same experience. The gravity of his voice further portrays his feelings of dread and his understanding of the seriousness of the situation. In addition, when people are deep in thought, they often tap or do other repetitive movements. Therefore, Morris's motion of tapping his glass against his teeth indicates he is deeply lost in thought as he recalls the horrors of having his wishes granted and the death of his acquaintance. More interestingly, the use of the image "strong teeth" calls into question the truth of his strength. The story asks of its readers, just how strong are human beings? The story then answers this question by showing us we are actually weak, because we fail to understand the gravity of our desires and choices.