What was the first wish in "The Monkeys Paw"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It should be noted that only Mr. White can make wishes with the monkey's paw. The author wanted to forestall the possibility of Mrs. White making a wish without her husband's knowledge. The paw is not community property, and the wish cannot be made by anyone who just happens to hold it. Sergeant-Major Morris tells the family:

"He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

A bit later in Part I there is some additional dialogue to establish that the paw belongs to Mr. White and only he can make wishes.

"Did you give him anything for it, father?" inquired Mrs. White, regarding her husband closely.

"A trifle," said he, colouring slightly. "He didn't want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away."

By paying for the paw, although even a trifle, Mr. White becomes the bona fide owner. He doesn't know what to wish for. It is interesting that the first wish is suggested by Herbert, the second by Mrs. White, and only the third is Mr. White's idea. For the first wish Herbert makes the suggestion:

"If you only cleared the house, you'd be quite happy, wouldn't you?" said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. "Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that 'll just do it."

So Herbert's father complies.

"I wish for two hundred pounds," said the old man distinctly.

Ironically, it will be Herbert's death at the manufacturing plant next day that will seem to make the wish come true. One might wonder what would have happened to Herbert at the plant if Mr. White had made an entirely different first wish. When Herbert's father learns from the representative of Maw and Meggins that he is to receive two hundred pounds compensation for his son's death, he feels guilty because he feels he has caused Herbert's death with his wish.

Unconscious of his wife's shriek, the old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor.

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