In regards to "The Monkey's Paw," what exactly is the element of superstition in contrast with the beliefs of the people of India?
The majority of India's population practices Hinduism. The belief in karma is one of this religion's defining characteristics; those who believe in karma believe that those who do good receive good in return, while those who do evil (bad, wrong, etc.) receive the same in return. In other words, they believe that a person receives the same as he gives in life, which directly contradicts the notion of superstition. Because karma is, basically, a cause and effect principle, superstition would play no part in the beliefs of someone devoted to the tenets of that religion, such as one would assume the old fakir to be in the story.
Superstition are beliefs which link some some objects or events with other desirable or undesirable occurrences without any apparent logical connection between the two. Some examples of the most common superstitious beliefs in the western world are:
- Association of number 13 with things that are bad and evil.
- Crossing of fingers will prevent something in the current situation causing a loss.
- Speaking about some good fortune will reverse the luck. This can be prevented by touching wood immediately after saying some such thing.
Some major practices like that of astrology, palmistry, numerology, are also considered by many to be nothing more than superstition.
List of such superstition in India runs into hundreds. However I have not come across any of these superstitions as widely held and as influential in affecting behavior of people as the belief about number thirteen affects behavior in some western countries. I Say this because I have personally seen buildings that have floor numbering without number 13 appearing in it. The floor directly above floor 12 is numbered 14 rather than 13.