What is the fateful decision of "The Monkey's Paw"?

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There are several fateful decisions made at various points in the story that lead to Herbert's tragic death and the resurrection of Herbert's corpse from the grave. The most obvious fateful decision is Mr. White's casual use of the monkey's paw to wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage on his home. Shortly after Mr. White's wish, the reader discovers that Herbert's tragic death is linked to the malevolent monkey's paw. Mr. White's first wish drives the plot of the story and eventually leads to his second wish for his son to return back to life.

Despite the significance of Mr. White's decision to make the first wish, one could argue that his most fateful decision was to rescue the monkey's paw from the fire. At the beginning of the story, Sergeant-Major Morris suggests that the monkey's paw is wicked and proceeds to toss the talisman into the fire. At this point, Mr. White makes the fateful decision to retrieve the monkey's paw from the fire, against Sergeant-Major Morris's advice. Sergeant-Major Morris even tells Mr. White,

I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again, like a sensible man. (Jacobs, 4)

It can be argued that if Mr. White would have simply allowed the monkey's paw to burn, Herbert would still be alive, and the White family would not have experienced the trauma and panic that ensued following their son's death.

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There are many fateful decisions in "The Monkey's Paw."  However, the most fateful decision, at least when it comes to Mr. White, is when he pulled out the paw from the fire. 

As Sergeant Major Morris was speaking of his tales, he began to speak about a mysterious monkey's paw, which was supposed to have powers to grant wishes.  Morris also says that the paw is dangerous.  For example, he says that a previous person who used it actually wished for death. This alone should have made Mr. White fearful to use it. 

Morris throws the paw into the fire to destroy it.  Mr. White immediately gets it out of the fire.

Then he took the paw and suddenly threw it on the fire. With an astonished cry Mr. White bent down and pulled it out quickly.

This shows that Mr. White is intrigued.  Perhaps he wants to make a wish?  Had he left it in there, the evening would have been spent well with an old friend. But because he saved the paw, his life was forever altered.  

 

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