What is a brief plot summary of "The Monkey's Paw"?

In "The Monkey's Paw," the White family prevents a guest from destroying a monkey's paw that has the power to grant wishes. Mr. White wishes for money, which he is granted by the factory that his son works at after his son's gruesome death. They then wish for their son to come back, and something knocks at the door. When Mrs. White opens the door, nothing is there, as Mr. White's third wish caused whoever was there to disappear.

Expert Answers

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

In part 1 of "The Monkey's Paw" the White family is visited by Sergeant-Major Morris, who recounts his adventures in India. At Mr. White's request, Morris reluctantly speaks about the magic monkey's paw that he carries, and he throws the enchanted talisman into the fire. Mr. White foolishly rescues the paw from the fire and wishes for two hundred pounds to pay off his mortgage when Sergeant-Major Morris leaves.

In part 2, a messenger from Herbert's work arrives at the White residence and informs Mr. and Mrs. White that Herbert passed away in a tragic work accident. The Whites are astonished and horrified by the news of their son's death and the messenger presents them with two hundred pounds from the company as compensation for their loss.

In part 3, Mrs. White realizes that her husband's wish was granted and begs him to make a second wish using the monkey's paw. Mr. White follows his wife's instructions and wishes for his son to be alive again. Later that night, Mr. and Mrs. White are awakened by knocking at their door and realize that Herbert's undead corpse has arrived. As Mrs. White struggles to unlock the door, Mr. White frantically searches for the paw and makes his final wish moments before his wife opens the door. By the time Mrs. White opens the door, Herbert's corpse has disappeared.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 8, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Monkey's Paw is a story about a mystical charm, a monkey's paw that is brought into the home of the White family by Sergeant Major Morris, who has served in India.  The monkey's paw has the ability to grant 3 wishes to 3 people.  S.M. Morris was the 2nd owner, the 1st owner's 3rd wish was for death. 

S.M. Morris expresses grief over the monkey's paw and tries to destroy it, Mr. White saves it and takes it off his hands for a small fee.  His first wish is for 200 pounds, when nothing happens immediately, he and his family, wife and son Herbert, think that the monkey's paw is a hoax.

The Whites' get the money from Herbert's factory after he is accidentally pulled into a machine and mangled to death.  The 2nd wish is thought of by Mrs. White, to bring her son back from the grave.  He has been dead for 10 days, again after the wish, nothing happens immediately.  The Whites' then begin to hear the sound of someone or something arriving at their door and a loud knocking begins.  Mrs. White wants to rush to the door. Mr. White is not so sure.

As Mrs. White rushes to the door to open it, it is bolted at the top, she can't reach the lock, as she is dragging a chair to the door, Mr. White is furiously looking for the monkey's paw to make his 3rd wish.

Mr. White makes his 3rd wish, to return whatever is at the door, Herbert or some form, thereof, back to the grave, just as Mrs. White opens the door, to find nothing but the dark empty night.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Monkey's Paw" is a classic, even amazing, story of supernatural suspense. The monkey's paw is a magical artifact. Anyone who owns it gets three wishes granted. They come true—but never precisely as you wish, so that you get what you want at great cost to yourself. In this story, the Whites get the paw from Sergeant-Major Morris. When they wish for wealth, they get money from the company where their son works…because he was killed in an accident. Mrs. White wishes for their son to be brought back. They hear him coming back…from the dead, clearly lurching, zombie-like. The third wish sends him back to the peace of the grave.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Monkey's Paw is a suspenseful short story dealing with the White family who are awaiting a guest.  The guest arrives on a dark and rainy night. The guest has recently returned from colonial India and has in his possession a monkey's paw which is said to be able to grant three wishes to its owner.  However, the guest no longer wants the paw and throws it away. 

Mr. White grabs it out of the fire and decides to try it.  He wishes for 100 Pounds which he indeed receives but in the most unusual way.  The next day a man comes to the door to present the White's the sum of 200 Pounds.  Their son has died at work (caught in a machine) and the 200 pounds is a payment from the company. 

Both Mr and Mrs. White are distraught and in their pain, they wish for the return of their son.  The story leaves the reader hanging as we hear the knock on the door and Mr. White frantically trying to prevent whatever it was at the door from coming in.  The reader can imagine that it is the dead son, returned.  But in what state?  Right as Mrs White opens the door - Mr White makes the third wish.  The reader is left to imagine what he wished for but more can conclude that it was that his son disappear as no one is there when the door is opened.

For a more detailed summary please see the link to enotes below.

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