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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Why does Sergeant-Major Morris throw the paw onto the fire, and who gave the paw to Mr. White?  

In "The Monkey's Paw," Sergeant-Major Morris throws the paw onto the fire because he is aware of the dark side of the power that it holds. Nobody directly gives the paw to Mr. White. He retrieves it from the fire himself after Sergeant-Major Morris has thrown it into the coals.

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Sergeant-Major Morris knows firsthand the disastrous effects of wishing upon the evil monkey's paw, which is why he throws it into the fire. From the moment Mr. White brings up the monkey's paw, Morris attempts to avoid the conversation and is reluctant to discuss it. After Mr. White presses Morris to talk about the paw, he eventually describes how an old fakir placed a spell on it to prove that

fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.

Morris mentions that the paw's first owner eventually wished for death. By including this startling detail, Morris subtly warns Mr. White about the paw's wicked power before suddenly tossing it into the fire.

Morris recognized that Mr. White might be reckless enough to wish upon the paw and attempted to spare his friend the trouble by destroying the evil talisman. Tragically, Mr. White does not heed Morris's warning or respect his gesture by retrieving the paw from the fire. Since Morris threw the paw into the fire, it would be unfair to say that he gave Mr. White the paw. Morris did not even want to discuss the paw, let alone give it to his friend.

After Mr. White saves the talisman, Morris tells the old man not to hold him responsible for anything that happens and encourages Mr. White to destroy the evil paw at once. Sadly, Mr. White's curiosity gets the best of him, and he proceeds to wish for two hundred pounds, which results in his son's tragic death.

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Sergeant-Major Morris throws the monkey's paw onto the fire because it is a dangerous artifact, and he has seen firsthand the havoc that it can wreak. He has sensed the White family's interest in the paw and wishes it to be destroyed. By throwing the paw onto the fire, he is doing his best to put an end to the danger that the paw poses. He had initially tried to dissuade Mr. White's interest in the paw, but this had backfired.

At face value, the idea of an object which would allow three wishes to come true for three people who held it seems magical, but the sergeant-major has seen the dangers of the paw firsthand. Just before throwing the paw into the fire, he tells the White family that the first man who had had his wishes granted had used his third wish to wish for death. Even this isn't enough to dissuade Mr. White's interest in the paw.

Nobody directly gives the paw to Mr. White. While Sergeant-Major Morris had been the one to bring it into Mr. White's house, he had made his intention to destroy the paw rather than hand it over quite clear. Mr. White himself retrieves the paw from the fire, thereby acquiring it for himself. He fails to take Morris's warning seriously, and the twisted way in which the paw grants the family's first wish has devastating consequences.

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When Sergeant-Major Morris visits Mr. White's home, Mr. White encourages Morris to elaborate further on his story about the monkey's paw. Morris reluctantly explains to the White family how an old fakir put a spell on the monkey's paw to show people that fate ruled their lives. Morris also explains that the spell grants three different men three wishes each. When Mrs. White asks if anyone else has been granted three wishes, Morris says that the previous owner's third wish was for death, which is how he got the paw. Morris then mentions that he had no luck at selling it and tells Mr. White that he isn't sure he'd want three wishes again, which indicates that the paw is evil.

Morris then throws the monkey's paw into the fire and refuses to give it to Mr. White. However, Mr. White grabs the paw out of the fire before it burns and Morris tells him,

"I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t hold me responsible for what happens. Throw it on the fire like a sensible man." (3)

Morris threw the monkey's paw into the fire because he knew that only evil would result from any one making three wishes with the paw. He does not want to see his friend harmed in any way, which is why Morris disposes of it. Unfortunately, Mr. White saves the paw before it burns and suffers the consequences attached to making three wishes.

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Nobody gave the paw to Mr. White.  He grabbed it off the fire himself when Morris threw it there.

Morris threw it there because he did not want anyone else to have it.  He knew that any wishes that someone made would be granted, but they would probably be granted in a very bad way.

Because he knew that, he wanted to just burn the paw and be done with it (I don't know why he hadn't just thrown it away before).  But instead, Mr. White grabbed it.

Just as Morris predicted, the White family soon wished that Mr. White had not gotten the paw and had not made any wishes.

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