What is '"The Monkey's Paw"' about?

Expert Answers

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

The short story, "The Monkey's Paw," is about the dangers of trying to tamper with fate. This theme is introduced in the beginning of the story.  Sergeant Major Morris, Mr. White's friend, comes over and shares about his experiences overseas.  In one story, he speaks about a monkey's paw, which was given to him by an old fakir, a holy man.  According to Morris, this fakir put a spell on it to teach people about the dangers of tampering with fate.  The paw would grant wishes, but it would also bring great sadness.  Here is what the text says:

"An old fakir put a spell on it. He was a very holy man and he wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that to interfere with fate only caused deep sadness. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

As the story progresses, Mr. White uses it.  He wishes for money to pay off his house.  He gets the money, but it is at the expense of his son's death at work. Whether this was coincidental or the doing of the paw is not clear.  But the story suggests that the paw is at work.  

At the bidding of Mrs. White, Mr. White asks for his son to live again.  This is his second wish.  When there is a knock at the front door, Mr. White believes that this is his son.  Fear gets the best of him, and he presumably wishes that everything go away.  In light of this, the story is about the dangers of tampering with fate.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

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