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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Why did the first owner of "The Monkey's Paw" end up wishing for death? My assignment is to find the theme of the story and to write a story about how the first owner of the paw ended up wishing for death. Help!

Expert Answers

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We never know for sure why the first owner of the paw eventually wishes for death. It can be assumed that his wishes were similar to those of the previous owners--possibly for wealth, prosperity and long life--and the results must have been equally terrifying and unexpected. We only know that Sergeant-Major Morris tells the Whites that

"... the third [wish] was for death. That's how I got the paw."

Morris's three wishes also came true, but he is mysteriously tight-lipped about their consequences, only warning the Whites to " 'wish for something sensible.' " The power of the paw relates to the main theme of the story, that of fate and how " 'fate ruled people's lives.' " The paw always provided their owners with their granted wishes, but the end results were never quite as the owners expected.

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