illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

Start Free Trial

How does the monkey's paw ruin the White family?

Quick answer:

The monkey's paw brings disaster to the White family by granting their wishes in a horrific manner. Their desire for money results in their son's death, the exact amount they wished for being their compensation. Mrs. White's wish to bring her son back to life results in a terrifying knocking at their door, assumed to be their resurrected son. Mr. White's final wish stops the knocking, causing a rift between him and his wife, forever altering their relationship.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The White family exists as a typical family with some struggles with money, and they jump at the chance to have three wishes granted by a mysterious monkey's paw. Even though Sergeant-Major Morris warns them that people get hurt with wishing on h the paw, the White family quickly takes it (even after Morris attempts to burn the paw in the fire) and almost immediately decides to wish for enough money to pay off their house.

The next day, their son doesn't come home from work, and the company he works for shows up with a form of settlement (although they take no blame) for his untimely death. The amount is exactly what the family had wished for.

As if this isn't bad enough, Mrs. White soon decides to use the paw to wish her son back to life. Mr. White doesn't think this is a good idea, and both are horrified when they actually hear knocking at the door.

Mr. White makes his final wish (which we can assume is for his son not to have arisen from his grave after a physically devastating accident), and the knocking stops.

This all impacts the family in various ways. First, the Whites lose their son in what appears to be a direct correlation with their wish using the monkey's paw. Second, the memories they have of him are now tied together with the image of a zombie-son knocking at their door, whether this is what really happened or not. They wished for it, and the knocking began at approximately the same time it would have taken a person to walk from the cemetery to the house. So any images of their son "resting peacefully" are forever altered. Third, the reader can assume that Mrs. White may be angry with her husband for using the third wish to end all hope of seeing her son again, and this likely alters their relationship forever. All of this conflict resulting from the monkey's paw could be enough to end their marriage, but it will certainly change the way they are able to structure their relationship.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial