The moral of W. W. Jacobs's celebrated short story "The Monkey's Paw" is that you should be careful what you wish for and that there are no easy shortcuts in life.
When Mr. White inquires about the monkey's paw, Sergeant-Major Morris touches on the moral of the story by saying, "He [the old fakir] wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who tried to change it would be sorry." Fate is something that cannot be altered, and the monkey's paw punishes those who attempt to change their destiny by wishing upon it. When Mr. White holds the talisman in his hand, he struggles to decide what to wish for, because he seems to have everything he ever wanted. It is Herbert who suggests that he wish for two hundred pounds, which is just enough money to pay off the house.
Although Mr. White is perfectly content in life, he foolishly wishes for two hundred pounds, which would seem to make his seemingly perfect life complete. Mr. White attempts to take an easy shortcut to paying off his home by wishing upon the paw. Unfortunately, his wish has tragic consequences and results in Herbert's death. Mr. White quickly discovers the meaning of the old adages "be careful what you wish for" and "there are no easy shortcuts in life." Mr. White's situation is similar to the tragic hero King Oedipus, who foolishly attempted to alter his destiny.
The fact that Mr. White's punishment does not fit his transgression contributes to the evil nature of the paw but also emphasizes the morals of the story. One can apply the morals of the story to their own life by recognizing the importance of appreciating their current situation and valuing hard work. Mr. White could have easily picked up on Morris's hint, discarded the paw, and continued to work to pay off his home. However, he attempted to take a shortcut in life and change his destiny, which turned out to be a disastrous mistake.