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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Discussion Topic

The three wishes and their consequences in "The Monkey's Paw"

Summary:

The three wishes in "The Monkey's Paw" and their consequences are: first, Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds, resulting in his son's death and the compensation being 200 pounds. Second, he wishes for his son to return to life, leading to terrifying events. Third, he wishes for his son to return to the grave, ending the horror.

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What three wishes in "The Monkey's Paw" could parody the original story?

Fun! I like the idea of this assignment. Well, one possibility would be to think about which wishes would turn this story from a horrific tragedy with overtones of terror and despair to a farce which helps us to learn a similar lesson but through focusing on satirising humans as always wanting what we can't have but then being unhappy when we get it.

You might like to think of an issue that is important to us in this day and age, such as plastic surgery and looking young and beautiful. In my version of this story, a playful Mr. White picks up the paw and asks to be young and handsome again. However, this wish has become so true that he is more successful than his son and becomes something of a playboy, much to the chagrin of his wife, who becomes very upset. Finally, after much browbeating, he agrees to his wife's entreaties to become young and beautiful and this is his second wish. However, it is now his turn to be annoyed as she becomes the lover of various Hollywood actors and politicians. So annoyed with the paw and with what it has done to them both, he makes his third wish, wanting the effects of the first two wishes to be negated.

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What are the three wishes and their consequences in "The Monkey's Paw?"

While the first two answers portray the Whites as making the first wish in “The Monkey’s Paw” as a joke, I disagree.  The Whites are driven by greed and ambition, just as most people are.  It may be that they do not fully believe that the paw will grant their wish, but they cannot prevent themselves from wishing.  It is sort of like buying a lottery ticket knowing that you will almost surely not win, but being unable to forego the chance.

To show that this is the case, we can see at least two pieces of evidence from the story. First, when Sergeant Major Morris throws the paw on the fire, Mr. White cries out in astonishment and grabs it out of the fire.  You do not reach into a fire to rescue something that you think is a joke.  Second, Mr. White forces money on Morris in exchange for the paw.  If you really think something is a joke, you are not going to force someone to take money for it when they are already ready to burn it.

In whatever spirit the first wish is made, it is for two hundred pounds.  Herbert White suggests this particular amount because it would be enough to pay off the mortgage on their house.  The consequence of this wish is that the parents get the money, but that Herbert dies.  He is killed in an accident when he is “trapped in the machinery” at his workplace.  A man from the workplace comes and gives them the money as compensation.

The next wish stems from the first.  Ten days later, Mrs. White realizes that they have two wishes left and could use one to bring Herbert back from the dead.  She pushes her husband until he gives in.  As the story tells us, “He raised his hand. ‘I wish my son alive again.’”  The consequence of this is that Herbert’s corpse is (apparently) reanimated.  All we know for sure is that some hours later something starts knocking on the Whites’ door in the middle of the night.  We never “see” what is knocking, but the Whites are sure it is Herbert. Mrs. White thinks Herbert will be normal again, but Mr. White does not.  He remembers that Herbert was mangled beyond recognition in the accident and he knows the corpse has been rotting for 10 days.  He is sure that the knocking is coming from Herbert’s corpse, and not from a Herbert who has been brought back to life as he was before the accident.

Just as we are not told for sure what is knocking on the door, we do not know for certain what the third wish is.  Mrs. White has been getting a chair so she can open a bolt on the door that is too high for her to reach.  Mr. White is frantically looking for the paw because he does not want “the thing outside” to get in.

He heard the creaking of the bolt as it was slowly opened, and at the same moment he found the monkey’s paw and frantically breathed his third and last wish. The knocking stopped suddenly, though it still echoed in the house.

When Mrs. White opens the door, there is no one there and the road is quiet and empty.  We can assume that Mr. White wished for his son to return to the dead and that the consequence of his wish was that Herbert did so.

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What are the three wishes and their consequences in "The Monkey's Paw?"

The Monkey's Paw tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. White. They come into possession of a magical monkey's paw. The monkey's paw is said to have the power to grant three wishes, but Mr. and Mrs. White are warned that their is a price that comes with the wishes. 

While at first the White's don't believe in the monkey's paw, they decide to make a wish anyway. Mr. White wants 200 pounds to pay off his house. They jokingly make the wish and go to bed. Their son, Herbert, gets up to get ready for work. He goes to work and has an accident at work and dies. Mr. and Mrs. White are notified and it is known that Herbert has insurance through work. The amount of the insurance is 200 pounds, exactly the amount the White's wished for. The White's are thrown into a great depression. Mrs. White can't seem to get over the loss of her only child. She asks Mr. White to make a wish for their son to come back to them. Mr. White is uncomfortable in doing this, but for the sake for his wife, he makes the wish. In the night Herbert comes back to life and makes his way home. He is heard banging on the door, to get inside. Mrs. White is thrilled to have her son back, but Mr. White realizes that Herbert has not come back as their son. As Mrs. White makes her way to open the door for her son, Mr. White makes his final wish. He wishes that his son was still dead. When Mrs. White opens the door, she opens it to find no one there.

The whole story is a story about the consequences of being careful what you wish for. Mr. and Mrs. White, had made very selfish wishes, and in the end they realize the error or their ways, but at the cost of the one thing they loved the most.

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What are the three wishes and their consequences in "The Monkey's Paw?"

The first wish made by the Whites is made in laughter and little hope - they don't believe in the paw, but are drawn to wish anyway, for the fun.  Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds.  The consequence is that Herbert is killed in an accident at work and the family receives the 200 pounds in compensation.

The next wish is made is all seriousness and from a place of grief.  At the request of Mrs. White, Mr. White wishes for Herbert to be alive again.  Herbert awakens in his grave, climbs out, and comes home to bang on the door and be let in.

The last wish is made out of fear.  Mr. White, scared of what his living dead son will look and be like, wishes for Herbert to return to the grave.  When Mrs. White gets the door open, Herbert is gone - the wish has worked.

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What was the effect of the first wish in "The Monkey's Paw"?

Mr. White's first wish is for two hundred pounds, which he needs to pay off the loan on his house. The immediate effect of this first wish is the movement of the monkey's paw, and Mr. White's consequent surprise. After making the wish, Mr. White also sees faces in the fire in his hearth. The last face he sees is a "horrible . . . simian" face.

The following day, Mr. and Mrs. White receive a visitor, who informs them that their son, Herbert, had been "caught in the machinery" at work. Herbert, they are told, died as a result of the accident. The company he worked for, represented by the visitor, offers Mr. and Mrs. White "a certain sum as compensation," which happens to be two hundred pounds. Upon hearing this, Mrs. White shrieked and Mr. White collapsed to the floor in "a senseless heap."

Thus, the effect of the first wish was exactly what had been wished for, namely the two hundred pounds. However, this two hundred pounds came at the price of their son's life, which of course was the much more significant, albeit indirect effect of the wish.

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What was Mr. White's response to the three wishes in "The Monkey's Paw"?

In W.W. Jacobs short story "The Monkey's Paw" Mr. White is quite intrigued by the talisman and the idea it can grant wishes. In fact, he introduces the topic into the discussion when Sergeant Major Morris visits the White family. Morris had mentioned the paw in an earlier conversation and Mr. White brings it up again in the presence of his wife and son, Herbert. Despite the ominous stories about the paw, including that one man who had the paw wished for death, Mr. White purchases it from Morris. At first Mr. White is unsure what to wish for but after some light hearted banter with his son Herbert and at Herbert's suggestion, he wishes for two hundred pounds, the exact amount it would take to pay off the mortgage on his house. When the paw unexpectedly moves in Mr. White's hand and Herbert sees grotesque faces in the fire, it is not surprising that Mr. White's last two wishes will be for Herbert to first live again, and then to be dead again.

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Are the Whites' three wishes granted and do they get what they want in "The Monkey's Paw"?

The Whites’ three wishes are granted, but not always in the way that they wanted.

The Whites do not really take the monkey’s paw seriously.  The Sargent-Major explains the paw is dangerous, and says they should just throw it in the fire. He even tells them the third wish of the last person to have the paw was for death.

The Whites do what most people who are presented with a magic token that grants wishes would do: they wish for money. Mr. White says he is happy and does not want anything, but his son encourages him.

"If you only cleared the house, you'd be quite happy, wouldn't you?" said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. "Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that'll just do it."

Herbert winks at his mother. He clearly thinks this is just a lark. None of the Whites realize they have made a terrible mistake. As everyone goes to bed, Mr. White thinks he sees monkeys in the fire and is disturbed.

The Whites get their money, but not in the way they wanted it. Herbert is killed in a terrible accident at the factory, and his employer compensates the Whites with two hundred pounds. This is obviously not what they wanted. They would much rather have their son than the money.

Mrs. White is overcome by grief, and wishes again on the paw. This time, she wishes for her son. 

"No," she cried, triumphantly; "we'll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again."

The man sat up in bed and flung the bedclothes from his quaking limbs. "Good God, you are mad!" he cried aghast.

Mr. White is opposed to using the paw again. He knows things did not turn out well the first time, and is beginning to believe the paw is actually cursed. His wife is desperate with grief, though. When there is a knocking at the door, he is horrified. He worries what condition their son’s corpse will be in since he has been dead ten days.

Mr. White decides not to wait to see what is at the door. He makes the third wish, and the knocking stops. I guess you could say that this was the only time the Whites got what they really wanted. Mr. White wanted his son to rest in peace, not be some horror they could not face.

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How do "The Monkey's Paw" and "The Third Wish" differ?

"Three wishes he wants, the clever man! Well, I have yet to hear of the human being who made any good use of his three wishes-they mostly end up worse off than they started. Take your wishes then, don't blame me if you spend the last wish in undoing the work of the other two." This is what Mr. Peters is told in The Third Wish. The Monkey's Paw and The Third Wish are stories about three wishes being granted to someone. 

In The Monkey's Paw, W.W. Jacobs, tells the story of a Mr. and Mrs. White, who take charge of a cursed monkey's paw. The paw has magical powers to grant a person three wishes. The White's are warned that the paw will only cause heart ache. They use the paw for selfish wishes, not knowing that the course of fate is sealed with the first wish. It leads to the death of their son, and Mr. White having to use the last wish to fix the first two.

In The Third Wish, Joan Aiken, tells a similar story of three wishes. Mr. Peters demands three wishes for saving the swan's life. However, Mr. Peters, is wiser to the affects of the three wishes. He may start off as selfish, but his actions are done in love. His love for Leita causes him to become unselfish. He has compassion on her sadness, thus causing him to make a second wish. In making the second wish, for his wife to return to being a swan, he shows true love. Leita and her sister return his love, by staying with him until his death. The Third Wish is a story about love. The love that Mr. Peters had, dictates how the wishes are used. The Monkey's Pay is a story about greed. The greed that Mr. White had, leads to the death of his son and the breakdown of his wife.

Though the two stories are similar, they both have to do with being granted three wishes, they are two different takes on the same theme. The two stories show you, the reader, that there are consequences with every action. The actions we take affect everything and everyone around us.  

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At the start of "The Monkey's Paw", how many have wished and what were the consequences?

According to Sergeant Major Morris, the "vert holy man" who put the magic spell on the monkey's paw specified that "three separate men could each have three wishes from it." Two men have already had their three wishes, so there are only three wishes left, and these are all used in this story. Morris tells the Whites that he doesn't know what the first man's first two wishes were but that the third wish was for death. Morris does not say what his own three wishes were, but he has a dread of the mummified paw and suddenly throws it in the fire. When Mr. White (the father) retrieves it, the Sergeant Major warns him not to use it but to get rid of it.

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Explain the three wishes in the short story "The Monkey's Paw".

W. W. Jacobs' short story, "The Monkey's Paw," revolves around the three wishes granted the owner of the shriveled paw. After gaining possession of the paw from an old friend who warned them about its evil, magical powers, the White family decided to test the paw's possibilities. The first wish is made by Mr. White "for two hundred pounds." The next day, the wish comes true when the family receives 200 pounds compensation--for the gruesome death of their son, Herbert. Mr. White makes a second wish, " 'to make my son alive again.' " The reader never knows for sure about the final wish, but when the Whites hear a sudden knock at the door, they believe it to be the mangled Herbert returning from the dead. The third wish is never uttered, but we can only assume that the final wish is for Herbert to return to the grave, for when Mr. White opens the door, no one is there.

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