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.