What is the theme of "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs?

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mr-mayonnaise | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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"The Monkey's Paw" is a short story set in the early 1900s in London. In the story Sergeant-Major Morris brings the paw back from a tour in India and shows it off to his friend Mr. White. The Sergeant attempts to destroy the paw but Mr. White fishes it out of the fire and he and his wife begin making wishes. Wishes on the paw, however, have disastrous side-effects and their first wish results in the death of their son.

The overall theme of the story is greed; the wishes of this very content family for ever better things lead to chaos and despair. In the beginning of the story the family is settled and very happy where they are. With their first wish for 200 pounds as a final house payment, Mr. White is reaching out with greed far beyond what he truly needs. As a result, he loses one of the things he treasures most. The next wish must soar even higher than the first, trying to bring their now dead son to life, and is another stretch of greed showing how they are moving even further from their contented life.

In short, "be careful what you wish for—it might just come true."

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