The Monkey's Paw Questions and Answers
by W. W. Jacobs

The Monkey's Paw book cover
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What are the moral values of "The Monkey's Paw"?

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Sarah Miles eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Monkey's Paw is a tale of warning. The short story is a warning to us all about what is really important in life. It makes us question our moral values. The Whites have a good life. Once the monkey's paw is introduced to them, everything changes for them. It changes the moral values they each have. The warning of the paw is that you need to be really careful what you wish for. The White's are warned that the outcome of the wishes is not what they think it is.

The Whites live a pretty normal life. They have a home and food and all of their basic needs are met. They are like everybody else in wanting to have what is unattainable to them. They want the money to pay off their house, even though they are financially comfortable. When they make the wish for the money, they have no idea of the nightmare it is bringing to their family. 

This short story is a tragic look into the greed that lays at the bottom of the human heart. We always seem to want what someone else has. The moral of this story tells the reader to beware of thinking someone else has it better than you. 

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most obvious moral lessons in "The Monkey's Paw" is to be careful what you wish for: It just might come true. The curse of the claw is based on this premise. The paw's wishes always come true, but apparently only in a cruel and, sometimes, deadly manner. The Whites' decision to test fate despite the warning of the paw's previous owner--and the knowledge of the terrible previous results--shows a disregard of the otherwise sensible life they have lived. The family has a good life with little financial worries, yet they, like many people, want what they cannot have. Their first wish is not a greedy one; they only wish for enough money to pay off the tiny remaining mortgage on their home. But the wish backfires in tragic fashion. The second wish is based on love, but it is made quickly and with little thought of the repercussions. The final wish is the only sensible one made, and one can only wonder why a normal family would make the illogical decision to put their trust in such a horrible creature. 

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tclane | Student

The easy and obvious moral value in The Monkey's Paw is not to let greed misguide you into thinking there is an easy road to unearned riches, even if, in this case, it is only 200 pounds ($1,000 American, with a lot more purchasing power than today). That said, there is a far more profound set of moral values given us at the very end of the story.

After Herbert has died and, thus, taught Mr. and Mrs. White the very hard lesson about the perils of easy money, it is left for the parents to deal with their son's death, which they come to do in exactly opposite ways.

While Mr. White is willing to accept the death of his son, Mrs. White cannot deal with Herbert's death. It is when she realizes they still have two wishes left on the monkey's paw that the more important moral issues comes to bear.

To Mrs. White, the answer is obvious: use the next wish to bring Herbert back to life. Against her husband's wishes, she grabs the talisman and makes her wish. Shortly afterward, they hear a loud pounding on their door.

As Mrs. White runs downstairs to open the door, in the expectation of greeting her son, Mr. White grabs the monkey's paw and makes one last, desperate wish. When Mrs. White opens the door, there is nobody there.

We know that Mr. White wished for Herbert to stay dead, but why? The easy answer, that they would have found the boy badly mangled and hideous,

will not suffice. They could have used the third wish to restore his health.

To Mr. White, there were two moral issues to consider. By wishing to keep Herbert undisturbed in his grave, then he can tell himself they did not kill their son through greed. It was nothing more than a sad coincidence.

Possibly of more importance, especially if the Whites were good Christians, is that, by bringing Herbert back to life, they are thwarting the will of God, probably condemning all of them to an eternity in Hell.