Herbert White is young and full of life. He is always joking. Both his parents love him, his mother especially. He is the light of his parents' lives. When he is killed at the factory, it seems like an especially devastating blow because it is such an immense loss for such a measly sum of money. The people at Maw and Meggins may feel it is adequate compensation, but the Whites would not have sold their son for any amount of money. It suggests the awesome power of the supernatural forces that control people's lives. The parents never recover from the loss. Their lives are empty. Their son's absence is like a tangible presence in the household. The parents have become so accustomed to the company of their lighthearted son, with his cheerful voice and inexhaustible fund of jokes, that they feel they can almost see him and almost hear him. The whole story revolves around Herbert. He is "the life of the party." It is he who suggests wishing for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage. It is his death that seems to have brought the money to their doorstep. It is Mrs. White's insistence on her husband wishing for Herbert to come back to life which seems to account for that horrible knocking at the door. It is Mr. White's last-minute wish for the knocker to go away which seems to send Herbert off into oblivion forever.