What does Mrs. White think about the monkey's paw in W. W. Jacobs' short story "The Monkey's Paw"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the beginning of W. W. Jacobs' short story "The Monkey's Paw," Mrs. White undergoes a series of different emotions in response to the paw.

Her first emotion is one of disgust. When Sergeant-Major Morris shows the mummified monkey's paw to the White family, Mrs. White displays disgust by drawing "back with a grimace." In contrast, her son Herbert, fascinated, takes the paw and looks at it closely.

Her second emotion is disbelief; she disbelieves the truth of Morris's story, thinking it to be nothing more than a fairy tale. We first see her disbelief when she uses the word "really" in her question posed to Morris, "And did you really have the three wishes granted?" The word really can mean in reality, and she uses it in a way that emphasizes the verb have, showing us she is saying, "And did you in reality have the three wishes granted?" Referencing reality is a way of questioning reality; if she had accepted the possibility of his tale, she would have posed a less wordy question, such as simply saying, "Were they granted?"

She continues to show disbelief by saying that Morris's story of the paw "sounds like the Arabian Nights." The Arabian Nights, also called One Thousand and One Nights, is a collection of Asian folk tales, and one of the most well-known stories in the collection is "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp," about a boy finding a lamp containing a genie and becoming blessed with wealth and power through the genie's aid. Since Mrs. White is connecting Morris's story about the paw to known folk tales, it is clear she thinks Morris's story is pure fiction.

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