What does Mr. White complain about so violently and what does his wife think he is really angry about in "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author uses this tirade of Mr. White as a dramatic way of describing the setting outside the house. They are isolated, and there is only one other house in the new real estate development. This will help later on to provide an alternative to the possibility that the knocking at the door must be Herbert come back from the dead in response to the second wish. It has been established that when a wish is granted by the possessor of the monkey's paw it can seem like a pure coincidence. It might be a pure coincidence that someone other than Herbert is knocking because he is lost out there and needs directions.

Since there are only two houses, the person doing such insistent knocking might have already tried the other house and found no one at home; so he would have to get some help at the Whites' house or else remain lost in the darkness. He could know there is someone at home at the Whites' house because he could have seen a light in the window. The author apparently inserted a description of Mrs. White standing at the bedroom window holding a lighted candle for the specific purpose of suggesting the possibility that the light might have been responsible for the loud and persistent knocking of some lost stranger.

He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window. The candle-end, which had burned below the rim of the china candlestick, was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceiling and walls, until, with a flicker larger than the rest, it expired.

In other words, the person knocking could have been the horribly mangled Herbert or it could have been some harmless wayfarer. And when Mr. White makes the third wish, which is for whoever it is to go away, it could have been Herbert going back to the grave in response to the wish, or it could have been a stranger finally giving up after doing all that pounding with no response.

The reader will never know whether the monkey's paw could really grant wishes or whether the previous owners' wishes only seemed to be granted by coincidence. After all, there were only two previous owners, so there were only six wishes made before Mr. White took possession of it from Sergeant-Major Morris. Those wishes were not described by Morris, who tells the family:

"He [the fakir] put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. White is one of the primary characters in "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, The story is set in White's house, Liburnam Villa, which is located in the country. It is quiet and peaceful when the weather is good; when the weather is bad, the Whites can feel a bit isolated.

When the story opens, Mr. White and his son, Herbert, are playing checkers; Mrs. White is peacefully knitting by the fire. it is a cozy setting in every way; however, Mr. White is a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to checkers, and he soon finds himself losing the game. As soon as Hebert announces that he has his father in checkmate, Mr. White kind of erupts with this statement:

"That's the worst of living so far out," bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlooked-for violence; "of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent. I don't know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses on the road are let, they think it doesn't matter."

The truth is that Mr. White is not angry at the location of his house, the state of the path, or the condition of the road. He is not even upset that other houses in the neighborhood stand empty. It is his wife who knows precisely what has made her husband react so violently.

"Never mind, dear," said his wife soothingly; "perhaps you'll win the next one."

Obviously Mr. White is a little, or more than a little, frustrated that he lost the game of checkers. That's it.