The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs

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What was the message or theme in "The Monkey's Paw"? How the author gets the message across to the reader?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It's worth noting that a story can have multiple messages or themes all at once. In any case, the message that really stands out for me can be expressed in the old adage: "be careful what you wish for." There is a cruel irony at work throughout "The Monkey's Paw" in how it grants wishes in such a way that it would ruin the lives of the ones doing the wishing.

In this story, the Whites do not treat the Monkey's Paw with the gravity that this talisman deserves, regardless of the warning given by the sergeant-major. Indeed, at one point, Mr. White's wife suggests that he wish for her to have "four pairs of hands" while his son suggests he wish to become an Emperor. In the end, Mr. White resolves to make a more humble wish for two hundred pounds, never dreaming the tragedy that would ensue. His family would receive the two hundred pounds in compensation for the death of their son.

This story is, at its heart, a cautionary tale about unexpected consequences and the ways in which achieving what we wish for might prove catastrophic in ways we would not expect. This theme is expressed within the story's very plot and the vicious irony at work within it.

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cybil eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Monkey's Paw" is a rare story in that the theme is actually stated in the story. Sgt. Maj. Morris tells the Whites that the old fakir who put the spell on the paw said, "Fate rules people's lives and those who interfere with fate do so to their sorrow." The message is a warning, but Mr. White doesn't believe it. Even though Sgt. Maj. Morris makes it clear that he tried wishing with unfortunate results and he tries to throw the paw on the fire,  Mr. White makes a wish for 200 pounds only to find that he receives the money when Herbert dies in a factory accident. According to the fakir, then, because Mr. White had wished for something he should not have...

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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