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 role of fate in the lives of the White family in "The Monkey's Paw."

Summary:

In "The Monkey's Paw," fate plays a crucial role in the lives of the White family by demonstrating the consequences of tampering with destiny. Their wishes, driven by desire and grief, lead to tragic outcomes, emphasizing the theme that fate is not to be altered without dire repercussions.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," are the Whites responsible for their fate?

The fate of the White family, as seen in W. W. Jacob's short story "The Monkey's Paw," is wholly deserved. Even after being warned, by Sergeant-Major, about the horrible outcomes of wishes made on the paw, the White family still makes a wish.

Their first wish comes true; they receive the 200 pounds they asked for.  This money did not come without a cost though--Herbert, the White's son, dies after the wish is made. The 200 pounds comes in the form of compensation for their son's death.

Mrs. White, distraught beyond comfort, demands that Mr. White wish for Herbert to be alive again. Mr. White, knowing the power of the paw (and remembering the warning about it), initially refuses. He believes that the wish will go as horribly wrong as the wish for money. Unfortunately, Mr. White relinquishes and makes the wish.

Soon after, the Whites hear a knocking on their door. Mrs. White, knowing it is Herbert, races to open it. Mr. White stops her. Having no other choice, Mr. White uses the final wish to rid himself of his son's newly reanimated body--before his wife can open the door. 

In the end, everything which had happened was because the Whites challenged fate. Therefore, they are responsible for their undoing.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," what role does fate play in the White family's lives?

"The Monkey's Paw" is a story all about fate and the destructive consequences that befall those who would wish to manipulate fate to their own self-interest.

As the story opens, the White family is visited by Sergeant-Major Morris, who shows the family the monkey's paw (which can be viewed as an instrument of fate), designed with the intention to

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

The paw grants three users each with three wishes, but Morris warns that making those wishes results in misfortune. He then attempts to destroy the monkey's paw by throwing it in the fire.

As the paw comes into Mr. White's possession, it becomes clear that the family does not take Morris's warnings seriously, as Mrs. White, while preparing dinner, makes a comment about wishing additional hands for herself, while their son, Herbert, suggests his father wish to become an emperor. In the end, Herbert suggests he wish for two hundred pounds and his father does. Tragedy follows as the wish is granted: Herbert dies in a work accident, and his family is awarded the two hundred pounds in compensation for their loss. Driven by grief, Mrs. White asks her husband to use the second wish to bring back their son, but horrified at the manner by which the monkey's pawn has twisted that wish, her husband uses the last wish to undo the effect of the second.

In this story, the monkey's paw allows people to twist fate according to their wishes, but doing so carries a heavy cost, with the fulfillment of these wishes resulting in great misfortune.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," what role does fate play in the White family's lives?

Fate is generally understood to be the occurrence of events outside a person's control. Many interpretations regard fate as being the predetermined course of one's life—destiny, that is. As such, it is deemed to be under the control of a supernatural force.

General Major Morris has experienced the power of this supernatural force and tries to warn the Whites against tampering with destiny. The Whites, however, flippantly ignore his dire injunction and joke about it. Mr. White experiences some of the paw's power when the object moves in his hand once he wishes for two hundred pounds to settle his bond. It becomes quite evident that this invisible and powerful force does exist, as proven by the tragic events which follow.

Mr. White's wish comes true but at a terrible price. Herbert, his son, dies in a horrific accident at work, and his employers present the family a compensatory two-hundred-pound check. Both Mr. and Mrs. White are devastated. Mrs. White is now convinced of the paw's powers, and in a moment of utter madness brought upon her by the shocking trauma she has experienced, she practically forces Mr. White to ask for Herbert's return.

Mr. White realizes the full horror of what his wife has wished for and, in utter desperation, uses the paw's final wish to reverse her request. The idea of his son's mutilated and rotting corpse returning is too terrible to imagine.

It is quite ironic that the Whites' initial skepticism has become a frightening reality. The shock and terror that they experience compel them to believe in the existence of mystical forces that rule destiny. In a final ironic twist, they call upon these forces to intervene: Mrs. White calls for Herbert's return, and her husband asks to reverse the wish.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," what role does fate play in the White family's lives?

Fate governs the lives of the entire White family as indeed it does with everyone. Tragically, this is a lesson lost on the Whites. The fakir understood this, as indeed does Sergeant-Major Morris. The fakir placed a spell on the paw to warn people of the dangers of messing around with the forces of fate. There's nothing you can do to defy your destiny, and if you should attempt to do so, the consequences will be dire.

Each member of the White family, however, regards the legend of the monkey's paw as all a bit of a joke, a harmless piece of mumbo-jumbo. But they're dealing with unspecified higher powers, something terrible and primeval that has existed since the dawn of humankind. In defying the role that destiny has determined for them, the Whites are displaying great arrogance. They have neither the right nor the ability to change their respective fates. Their failure to understand this simple lesson leads to tragic consequences for all concerned.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," what role does fate play in the White family's lives?

Fate, as spelled out in the text, controls the lives of all people. This is a deterministic viewpoint, the idea that every action is pre-determined and that all people are simply living out their assigned, fated roles. This view does not necessarily require a higher being, but usually does require some sort of spiritual rulebook that cannot be broken without magic. The monkey's paw itself serves that function; it is a tool which can break determinism and cause an unfated event to happen, albeit with negative consequences.

"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."
(Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw," gaslight.mtroyal.ca)

The White family is the last to be affected by the paw; Herbert White dies to provide an insurance payment to his parents, allowing them to pay off the house. When Mrs. White asks for Herbert to be returned to life, it is not specified that he be healed of his injuries; Mr. White intuits that he will be a horribly mangled monster, not their son. He is unable to change his wife's mind, and so Herbert returns, and Mr. White is forced to use up the last wish to remove Herbert. This shows that, once determinism is broken, fate steps in to return their lives to the equilibrium; the money is received, and it is not acceptable to have the money and Herbert together. Since they were not meant to receive this extra money, something of equal or greater value must be removed.

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In "The Monkey's Paw," how do you know that the Whites' decision to make a wish proves that fate rules people's lives"?

This is a very interesting question to consider. Remember what the White Family are told about the origin of the monkey's paw that comes to have such a devastating impact on their lives. The fakir created the monkey's paw to "show that fate ruled people's lives" and that when people tried to change or impact their fate they did so at "their sorrow." The truth of the fakir's words is clearly established in the way that Mr. White's wish causes only sorrow and grief through the death of his son. Notice how this trend continues when they wish for the return of their son. Part of the effectiveness of this story is the way in which we never get to see the appearance of the living-dead figure of their resurrected son, in spite of the mother's desperate attempts to open the door. However, we can see that Mr. White realises the truth of the fakir's words in the way that he uses the last wish of the monkey's paw to return his son to the grave--where he belongs. Certainly the first wish above all proves that if we try to change our fate or destiny, we do so at our peril, as the great sadness of the Whites shows.

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How does meddling with fate change Mr. and Mrs. White's life in The Monkey's Paw?

"Wish for something sensible," forewarned Sergeant Major Morris when he presented the talisman in W. W. Jacobs's short story "The Monkey's Paw." But the next owners of the paw, the Whites, made a series of wishes that tempted fate and changed their lives forever. Living a comfortable, happy life with their son, Herbert, before the arrival of the paw, each wish created a subsequently more terrible change. They became slightly wealthier with the inheritance of the 200 pounds, but at the cost of the death of their son. Grief and remorse followed them afterward. When Mrs. White attempted to reverse the first wish, the second wish proved an even worse choice. Apprehension and terror overwhelmed them as they considered the possibilities of Herbert's return. The final wish overturned the gruesome idea of the previous wish, but their world would remain a lonely one, with the repercussions of the paw haunting them forever.

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What is the role of fate in the lives of the White family in "The Monkey's Paw"?

I have changed the topic from Literature to "The Monkey's Paw," although you did not specify the title in your question. As I understand the story, the Whites did not suffer their tragic loss because it was predestined by fate but because they tried to interfere with their fates by making a wish for the two hundred pounds. Truthfully, this part of the story is hard to understand. This is how the sergeant-major explains it early in the story:

"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."

So what happened to the Whites was a sort of punishment for trying to interfere with their fates. The punishment was caused by the fakir putting a spell on the monkey's paw. But since he was "a very holy man," it seems that he was able to call upon supernatural forces such as a Hindu deity to exact the punishment. The implication seems to be that people should not try to change their lives but should accept their positions in the world with patience and humility.

Fate did not play a direct role in the story. It was the attempt to change their fates that brought about disaster. This story exaggerates and dramatizes a very real truth about life. We often cause ourselves problems and even tragedies by wishing for things without considering the possible negative consequences. Wanting things and wishing for them are essentially the same.

This is a wise observation by Benjamin Franklin:

All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.

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What role does fate play in the White family's lives in "The Monkey's Paw"?

This is a good question. Fate is all over the place, even if it is not mentioned all that much. Let me give you the context and give you some points. 

The story concern three main people: the Whites, their son Herbert, and sergeant-major Morris, who gives the family the monkey's paw. Sergeant-major Morris tells the family that the monkey's paw has powers to grant three wishes. At first the family is skeptical, but when they do make a wish it comes true. However, it is at a huge price. 

The family asks for money to pay off their mortgage and suddenly the money comes, but it is though the death of their son Herbert, who is killed in a machine accident at work. When this happens the family in desperation ask for Herbert's life back and they hear a knock on their door, which frightens them. They believe it is their dead son. Finally, they ask for their son to remain dead and the knocking stops. 

The point of the story is that when you try to manipulate fate, there will be a price to be paid. No one can beat fate. 

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