Let me start with some background information.
We don't know too much about Mr. White in the story. For example, we don't know his occupation or his hobbies. Here is what we do know. He is playing chess with his son, he is called henpecked, which means that he is perhaps overly devoted to his wife, and he desires to travel to India (perhaps he is bored with life).
Now as for what he does, he has a friend over, Sergeant Major Morris. Morris, then, begins to tell stories of his time overseas. Morris also tell the Whites about the tale of the monkey's paw, which he obtained from a fakir, a holy man, who put a curse on it to show that one should not tamper with fate. The paw was supposedly magical and could grant three wishes. Here is what Morris says:
‘An old fakir put a spell on it. He was a very holy man and he wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that to interfere with fate only caused deep sadness. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.’
Mr. White is skeptical, but he takes a chance and makes a wish for 200 pounds to pay off his house. As the story progresses, he gets the money, but it costs the life of his son. His son dies at work, and the company pays 200 pounds in view of his death. When Mrs. White wishes for her son back, there is a knock at the front door. Mr. White fears what this means, and he uses his last wish to make everything go away.
Mr. White then wishes it to go away. He is left without a son and full of remorse.