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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Please suggest an alternate ending for "The Monkey's Paw."  

Another ending would be that the Whites open the door to a weary traveler, seeking lodging on a dark and cold night. The story could then end with the Whites pressing this seemingly evil talisman into the hands of the next person with a tone much the same as Sergeant Major Morris had used with them.

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Another ending that could be written is that it is not the Whites' son who is knocking at the door. You'd have to be careful with this ending as you wouldn't want to change the tone of the story from dark and ominous to something silly, but the Whites only ...

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Another ending that could be written is that it is not the Whites' son who is knocking at the door. You'd have to be careful with this ending as you wouldn't want to change the tone of the story from dark and ominous to something silly, but the Whites only guess that it is Herbert who is knocking.

What if Mr. White had not wished him dead again, saving that third and final wish? What if they had opened the door to a weary traveler, seeking lodging on a dark and cold night? The story could then end with the Whites pressing this seemingly evil talisman into the hands of the next person with a tone much the same as Sergeant Major Morris had used with them.

It might also be interesting to end with a visual recognition of their son appearing on the horizon at this point. Once they have passed along the talisman, they would have no means of wishing him dead again, and it would be horrific to watch the traveler leave and then spot Herbert staggering toward his former home, getting ever closer with each wavering step. What would Mrs. White's reaction be when she spotted her son in his mangled state after being so desperate to see him again? What recourse would they have without the monkey's paw? A visual sighting and no monkey's paw to save them would certainly be an even more horrific ending.

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W. W. Jacobs's celebrated short story "The Monkey's Paw" ends with Mr. White frantically using his third wish for his son to return to the grave just as his wife opens the door. When Mr. White runs to his wife's side, the road is deserted and their zombie son has seemingly returned to the grave. Although the end of the story is dramatic, intense, and exhilarating, Jacobs does not tie up the loose ends, and readers are left to wonder if there were any consequences attached to Mr. White's last wish.

As we know, each wish upon the malevolent monkey's paw comes true. However, there is also a catch and something terrible takes place as a result of the wish being granted. For example, the White family receives two hundred pounds but their son dies in a work accident. Also, Herbert comes back to life after the second wish, but he is in zombie form. However, Jacobs does not describe the consequences attached to Mr. White's third wish, which is seemingly granted when his son returns to the grave.

As an alternative ending, it would be appropriate to include the disastrous consequence of Mr. White's last wish. I suggest that Mrs. White falls dead upon opening the door. Mrs. White's sudden death would fit the concept of the story and contribute an added shock of horror to the ending. Mr. White would be relieved that his zombie son has returned to the grave but heartbroken by his wife's sudden death.

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The possible alternative ending suggested by gpane in Answer #1 is excellent and very suggestive. It almost cries out for someone to write such an ending to the story. When the reader visualizes that scene and imagines all that insistent knocking, he can't help glimpsing a mental picture of the person who is standing outside and wants to come in. Mr. White had to look at his dead son to identify him, and he knows how horrible the poor boy looked after being caught up in heavy machinery. The author inserts some brief dialogue towards the end of the story to remind the reader of what Herbert would look like--if that is really Herbert outside doing the knocking.

"Go and get it and wish," cried his wife, quivering with excitement.

The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. "He has been dead ten days, and besides he--I would not tell you else, but--I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?"

So Herbert's face would be mangled beyond recognition and his whole mangled body would have begun to decay after being dead for ten days. If Mrs. White succeeded in getting the door open before her husband managed to make his third wish, she would see, in an alternative ending, a horrible monster standing there. What would he want? What would she do? Herbert would obviously want to move back in with his folks. He would be a living dead man. His own mother would die of fright or go out of her mind. His own father, having used up his last wish, might try to destroy his son by setting him on fire--and burning the house down in the process. There are many possible alternative endings based on the premise that it really is Herbert and that his parents really open the door for him.

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One possible alternate ending might be that Mr White is unable to prevent the entry of his son, returned from the grave, into the house. This would take the story into full-blown gothic horror mode, and leave little to the reader's imagination. It would be a more grisly, and probably less effective ending than the one that Jacobs actually opted for, which is much more subtle and thought-provoking. The fact that we do not actually see Herbert return, but only hear the door-knocking, adds a whole intriguing layer to the tale.This kind of subtlety is in the tradition of many of the best supernatural stories, where everything is not spelled out clearly, where more than one interpretation of events is possible, leaving room for doubt and intrigue.

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