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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“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs begins on a stormy night---appropriate for a horror story.  Unhappily, a monkey has lost its paw, and the paw has been given special powers.  The owner will be granted three wishes; however, according to its present owner,  Sergeant-Major Morris,  the paw is cursed.  The owner must be exceedingly careful for what he wishes. 

He took something out of his pocket and proffered it.

 "And what is there special about it?" inquired Mr. White…

 "It had a spell put on it by an old fakir," said the sergeant-major, "a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.

The White family has been a very happy until the visit of Morris. Mr. White, the protagonist of the story, purchases the paw. His son and wife want him to wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage on the house.  Mr. White makes his wish and immediately there is an ominous crashing noise in the house. 

The next day the parents learns that their only son Herbert has been killed in an accident at his work. He was caught up in some machinery.  The grief stricken parents receive two hundred pounds for the loss of their son. 

Mrs. White decides that the second wish should be used to bring back Herbert from the dead.  Mr. White does not think it is a good idea.  He has been buried for several days and he was mutilated when he died.  Despite this, Mr.White makes the wish to please his wife---but nothing happens.  The parents go to bed thinking that the wish has been wasted.  In the middle of the night, there is a loud knocking at the door.  Mr. White believes that it is Herbert and refuses to answer the door.  The mother rushes to open the door; just as she opens, it Mr. White wishes that his son would return to the grave.  There is nothing outside the door.

One of the lessons to be learned from the story examines the choices that people make.  Life choices must be examined and thought through carefully.  Using an amulet or something supernatural does not help to make the choice a wise one.  A person must learn to rely on his logic and reasoning and not just emotions to choose the best life path.   

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