W.W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw" exemplifies man's desire to reach beyond his present condition in the hopes of improving himself without arduous effort. However, when this desire overtakes him, he engages with the elements of Chance or Fate. Here are two themes illustrated in this story:
- Human Nature
Desire has always been a part of the human condition. Unfortunately, an accompaniment to desire has often been a clouding of one's reason. As examples of this condition, Jacob depicts Mrs. White, consumed with the loss of her beloved son, wishing for Herbert to come back to life. But, in her overwhelming desire, she forgets to think about what he may be like after his terrible accident.
Risk-taking is another of man's foibles that is detrimental. Mr.White exemplifies this trait initially as he plays chess and takes risky moves. His lack of forethought leads White to make his impetuous wish on the monkey's paw that excludes negative conditions.
There are so many elements of Chance that can enter into man's fortune, that it is impossible to rule out all.
The sergeant who visits the Whites tells them that fakir who gave him the monkey's paw wanted to demonstrate that
...fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.
This statement proves true, even though the Whites are aware of the fakir's intentions. For, they cannot and do not consider all the variables of Chance when Mr. White makes his first wish, ignorant of the fact that the effect of his wish may also possess a cause.
On eNotes there is a page that lists some themes in The Monkey's Paw and points out where these themes surface in the story. I have provided the link below.