What is a summary for the short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story begins on a dark and stormy night, foreshadowing the events to come. Mr. White and his son Herbert are playing a game of chess. Mrs. White is knitting by the fire. Mr. White loses the game and becomes frustrated. All in all, a nice vision of a family enjoying each other's company on an eerie night. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and the Sergeant-Major enters. They share a few drinks and the Sergeant-Major tells them some tales about his trips to India, where he obtained a monkey's paw. He claims the paw is magical, allowing three men three wishes each. He tells them that the first man's final wish was for death, adding to the overall creepy atmosphere of the story. The Sergeant-Major was the next to receive the paw, and he has used up his three wishes. He tosses the paw into the fire, but Mr. White snatches it out and keeps it for himself. The Sergeant-Major tells them that a fakir has put a spell on the paw "to show that fate ruled people's lives." Those who tamper with fate "did so to their sorrow." But the Whites are skeptical, and Herbert coaxes his father to wish for something modest, like 200 pounds. His father does so, while Herbert plays dramatic chords on the piano in accompaniment. They all go to bed for the night.

The next morning, they find their wish came true, but not in the manner they had hoped.

dalepowell1962 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A complete summary would be quite long, but the basics of the story is that a family is given a talisman- a monkey's paw or foot- that was said to be charmed by an old fakhir in India.  He wanted to show that men should not intervene for fate.

The family is told that the three wishes will come true, but they must accept all the consequences of what comes with it.  Their first wish is for a sum of money, but they receive the money through a small compensation due to the death of their son.  This is only the first wish--two remain.

Should they wish their son alive again?  They must consider what happened the first time they made a wish.  The remaining part of the story deals with this dilemma.