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 does Mr. White do with the paw in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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Mr. White and his son, Herbert, both examined the monkey's paw carefully when it was first shown to them by Sergeant-Major Morris. After their guest had tossed the talisman into the fire, it was Mr. White who quickly fished it out. He put it into his pocket and it was "partly forgotten" until after Sergeant-Major Morris had left. After White made his first wish, he dropped the paw to the floor in horror.

     "It moved!" he cried with a glance of disgust...
     "As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake."

It was Herbert who picked it off the floor and placed it on the table; and later, he accidentally grabbed it as he reached for a glass of water. A week after Herbert's death, Mrs. White remembered the paw, and she ordered her husband to retrieve it from the mantelpiece in the parlor and make their second wish. Again, the paw fell to the floor, and this time Mr. White left it there, until he heard the knocks at the door.

... her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house, and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey's paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish.

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What did Mr. White do in the story "The Monkey's Paw"?

Let me start with some background information.

We don't know too much about Mr. White in the story. For example, we don't know his occupation or his hobbies. Here is what we do know. He is playing chess with his son, he is called henpecked, which means that he is perhaps overly devoted to his wife, and he desires to travel to India (perhaps he is bored with life). 

Now as for what he does, he has a friend over, Sergeant Major Morris. Morris, then, begins to tell stories of his time overseas. Morris also tell the Whites about the tale of the monkey's paw, which he obtained from a fakir, a holy man, who put a curse on it to show that one should not tamper with fate. The paw was supposedly magical and could grant three wishes. Here is what Morris says:

‘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.’

Mr. White is skeptical, but he takes a chance and makes a wish for 200 pounds to pay off his house. As the story progresses, he gets the money, but it costs the life of his son. His son dies at work, and the company pays 200 pounds in view of his death. When Mrs. White wishes for her son back, there is a knock at the front door. Mr. White fears what this means, and he uses his last wish to make everything go away. 

Mr. White then wishes it to go away. He is left without a son and full of remorse. 

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