illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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What is the significance of the scene from "The Monkey's Paw" where Mr White is looking frantically for the monkey's paw while Mrs White is frantically trying to unlock the door?

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This is the climax of the story, as it is the most intense, suspenseful moment. Both Mr. and Mrs. White are revealing their true characters, while at the same time reflecting the rather cliche theme "Be careful what you wish for."

Mrs. White, whose passive role in the story has led to her wish to have Herbert back, is showing her maternal instincts as she races to open the door. At the time this story was written, as an elderly housewife and mother, her life would be lived through the men in her family. Thus, when Herbert dies, her wish to bring him back is natural. Her reaction to the knock is natural as well: What mother wouldn't want to see her son again?

Mr. White, however, knows the truth of what is knocking at the door. his character appraoches life much like the chess game in the beginning of the story. In short, he is reckless. It is his "sensible" wish for 200 pounds that brings about the fakir's curse and his son's death. At the end of the story, he attempts to correct his error by sending his son back to the grave. He wishes to save his wife further horror by protecting her from the spectre behind the door.

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