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The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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Why does the mother believe the second wish will fix everything in "The Monkey's Paw"?

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In part 3, Mrs. White wakes up in the middle of the night and reminds her husband about his first wish. She asks him to wish for their son to return back to life. She naively believes that a second wish can solve their terrible situation by bringing Herbert back to life and restoring their lives back to normal.

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After Mr. White initially wishes for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage, he and his wife suffer the tragic loss of their son, who dies in a work-related accident. The couple ends up receiving two hundred dollars from the company for compensation following Herbert's death, and they both...

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mourn the sudden death of their son. In part 3, Mrs. White wakes up in the middle of the night and suddenly remembers her husband's first wish. She expresses her belief that the monkey's paw actually works and begs her husband to wish for their son to return back to life. Mrs. White naively believes that a second wish can solve their terrible situation by bringing their son back to life and restoring their lives back to normal. However, Mrs. White does not consider the fact that her son might return as a zombie corpse. In her mind, she imagines Herbert returning to life and appearing as his normal self. Fortunately, Mr. White is able to make the third wish for Herbert to return to his grave before his wife opens the door to see her son's terrifying zombie corpse.

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There is no logical reason for Mrs. White's bizarre request, especially after her husband warns her that Herbert 

"... has been dead ten days, and besides he--I would not tell you else, but--I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?"

Mrs. White's insistence upon the second wish--that Herbert become alive again, regardless of his physical condition--comes from the love and grieving heart of a mother. An adult, Herbert still lived at his parents' home and was, no doubt, doted upon by his mother. She could not bear to be apart from him, and she was willing to accept her son back--in a "mutilated" state, if necessary.

"Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?"

It's an unexpected move from such a conventional woman. Her "foolish and wicked" decision could never have been conceived before Herbert's death, but now--with two more wishes to make and a broken heart to mend--Mrs. White takes the only step possible to reunite the family as before.  

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In "The Monkey's Paw," why does the mother think the second wish will make everything alright?

The main point the author wants to make about the second wish is that Mrs. White has never seen her son since his accident at the textile mill, but Mr. White had to go there to identify the corpse. Mrs. White still thinks of her son as the way he was on the morning he left for work. She imagines he will look the same and be the same happy, funny boy he was before. These are simple people, as the author W. W. Jacobs makes abundantly clear. It doesn't occur to her to ask for Herbert to return to them as he was before the accident, and it doesn't occur to her husband to wish for Herbert to return as he was before the accident. For one thing, that would seem like an impossible wish--but is it really impossible? That is the biggest question in the story, and it is never answered. Mr. White has limited faith in the monkey's paw anyway, and merely complies with his wife's demand without really expecting anything of such an utterly fantastic nature to happen. After all, Herbert is not only dead, but he has been decaying in his grave. The author has created a horrible impression in the reader's mind without providing any specific details. The reader is curious but probably doesn't really want to have to see Herbert in person if he were to return from the dead.

"We had the first wish granted," said the old woman, feverishly; "why not the second."

  "A coincidence," stammered the old man.

The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. "He has been dead ten days, and besides he--I would not tell you else, but--I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?"

 "Bring him back," cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. "Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?"

Mrs. White is guided purely by her emotions. She doesn't think about the possible consequences of the second wish. Mr. White is obviously guided more by his experience and reason. He knows that the second wish she is asking him to make is diabolical. It is attempting to contravene the laws of God and nature. The consequences of making such a wish might be even worse than having Herbert, all mangled and decayed, move back into their little home to live with them. The possibilities are like those suggested by Macbeth when he meets the witches and demands answers to all his questions.

I conjure you, by that which you profess,Howe'er you come to know it, answer me:Though you untie the winds and let them fightAgainst the churches, though the yeasty wavesConfound and swallow navigation up,Though bladed corn belodged and trees blown down,Though castles topple on their warders’ heads,Though palaces and pyramids do slopeTheir heads to their foundations, though the treasureOf nature's germens tumble all togetherEven till destruction sicken, answer meTo what I ask you.      IV.1

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