Why didn't the old couple simply wish their son to come back the way he was before the accident in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Sergeant-Major Morris had warned the Whites about the diabolical nature of the paw, they could not resist the urge to save it from the fire and make a wish of their own. They did not understand the consequences of the wishes--how they come true but with strings attached. When the Whites wished for money, they were not aware that it would come at the expense of Herbert's life. In their grief following Herbert's death, they were not thinking clearly and, out of desperation, Mrs. White forced her husband to make their second wish just as hastily as the first. Mr. White warned his wife about the state of the body:

     "He has been dead ten days, and besides he--I would not tell you else, but--I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?"
     "Bring him back," cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. "Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?"

So, Mrs. White was willing to accept Herbert even in his mangled form--she thought. Mr. White thought better of it, however, yet he did not consider making a more specific wish--to return Herbert in perfect physical health. Even if they had thought to wish Herbert alive exactly as he was before, the nature of the paw may well have again presented them with a surprising twist.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. White's belief in the powers of the monkey's paw was not as strong as that of his wife. He did not believe the paw could work magic. If he thought he could wish for anything in the world, he could wish that he and his wife were young again and that Herbert had just been born. His first wish, which was only for two hundred pounds rather than a fortune, showed that he was skeptical and conservative. He was only likely to wish for something that might be remotely possible. It was possible that Herbert might still be alive, though badly mangled. Mrs. White was not thinking clearly but emotionally. She had not seen Herbert's body and did not realize how horrible he looked. She wanted him back in any condition. It did not occur to her to tell her husband to wish for Herbert to be alive again and also in the same physical condition he had been in when she last saw him off to work. It is Mrs. White's wish that apparently brings Herbert back to life, but it is Mr. White who makes the wish, and something is lost in transition. Mrs. White may have expected Herbert to be perfectly normal but didn't think it necessary to explain this to her husband. Mr. White may have initially assumed that if Herbert could come back to life he could also be restored to his former physical condition and appearance.