In the midst of his stories about his life of adventure abroad, Sergeant Major Morris produces a rather curious object from his pocket – the monkey’s paw of the title.
Although unusual, the paw does not appear to be anything particularly special at first, as Morris himself notes.
"To look at," said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, "it's just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy."
However, Morris goes on to claim extraordinary powers for the paw, declaring that it is able to grant people three wishes after an Indian fakir put a spell on it. He also states that he got it from a man who had three wishes granted – including a final wish to die. It seems that this man left it to Morris at his death, although the full details of this are not given.
Therefore, although it may not be much to look at, the monkey’s paw takes on sinister qualities almost from the beginning. People may indeed have wishes granted from it, but not in the way that they would like, as illustrated in the course of the story when the Whites make their wishes with catastrophic results. It is also hinted that Morris had three wishes granted, in a similarly undesired manner.
According to Morris, the monkey’s paw has such sinister powers because the fakir who bewitched it wanted to warn people to be content with their lot and not to wish for things that they’re not naturally destined to have. The whole story is a grim twist on the fairytale motif of having wishes granted.