In the story "The Monkey's Paw," what is the fateful decision about the paw?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Monkey's Paw" exemplifies the old adage, "Be careful what you ask for." The Whites take the paw from the sergeant, but they fail to heed his warnings, and Mr. White rashly makes a wish that has devastating conditions attached to it.

When Sergeant Major Morris visits the Whites on a night of foreboding as wind blows and the road is "a torrent," they sit before a warm fire with an old soldier friend who tells them of his adventures in India and of a dried monkey's paw that had a spell placed upon it by a fakir. He mentions that he was given it after a man died and, grimly, he states that he has made his three wishes. Even after he witnesses Morris's chagrin and his tossing of the paw into the fireplace, Mr. White scoops it out and asks for the paw--a fateful decision of itself.

Further, it is a dangerous act that with this paw and its supposed powers, Herbert White makes light of the paw's magic and encourages his father to wish for £ 200, an amount that will pay off the mortgage on their home. After Herbert goes to bed, Mr. White does make this wish, but his decision to do this becomes a fateful one because he is not careful in wishing; that is, he does not add any limitations or modifiers to this wish, such as from where the money will come. Tragically, the £ 200 comes from a settlement on the accidental death of Herbert. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial