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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What did Sergeant Major Morris say about the monkey's paw?

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In summary, Morris said three things about the paw.  First, he got the paw from an old holy man, a fakir, in India. Therefore, the paw is imbued with magic and power.  In particular, this paw has the ability to give three wishes to three separate people who ask for it.  Two people, including himself, tried it, and it worked.

Second, the wishes that the paw grants will bring harm. This is why he tells Mr. White to be careful of what he wishes.  Also at one point, he throws the paw into the fire to destroy it. 

Finally, he says that the old fakir put a curse on the paw to show that people should not tamper with fate.  If they do tamper with fate, disastrous results would follow. 

Here is a quote that summarizes these points:

‘An old fakir put a spell on it. He was a very holy man and he wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that to interfere with fate only caused deep sadness. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.’

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What information does Sergeant Morris share about the monkey's paw and what spell was put on it?

When Sergeant Morris visits with the White family, you will notice that he is very reluctant to share information about the monkey's paw. It is Mr. White who engages him in conversation about it. Morris tries to dismiss it as a bit of "magic," but this only serves to pique the White's curiosity.

Reluctantly, Sergeant Morris tells them that the paw had a spell put on it by an old "fakir" (religious man) who wanted to use it to teach people about the power of fate. Specifically, he wanted to show people that interfering with fate has serious consequences. In order to demonstrate this, explains Morris, the fakir created a spell which gave three wishes to three separate men.

Morris continues to say that he is the second man to own the monkey's paw. The first man had his three wishes, the third being death, and so the paw came into Morris's possession. Having already had his three wishes, Morris thought about selling the paw, but it has caused so much "mischief" that he thinks a buyer seems unlikely.

It is interesting to note that Morris does not reveal his wishes to the White family. Instead, he leaves the paw in their possession and tells them to wish for something "sensible"—if they must wish for anything at all.

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