The story begins with an old man, Mr. White, and his son, Herbert, playing chess in the living room while Mrs. White is complaining about the house to dissuade them from arguing. Herbert wins as a guest enters the house, whose name is Sergeant-Major Morris. He regales them with tales of his travels that included plague, and strange people.
Mr. White remembers of how during his travels, Sergeant told him of a monkey’s paw that he purchased. Sergeant stoically tells them of how it is a magic paw that will grant you any wish you desire, but can only grant 3 wishes to 3 men.He already used his three wishes, and the man before him had wished for death. He then throws the paw into a fire, and after Mr. White retrieves it, tells him to not blame him for any troubles the paw might cause him. Sergeant gives Mr. White the paw but tells him to use it carefully.
After Herbert’s insistence, Mr. White uses his first wish to receive 200 pounds in order to pay off the house, and he feels the paw move in his hand as he does so. The next morning, Herbet gets into an accident at work and loses his life. A representative of the company goes to the elderly couple and offers them 200 pounds in compensation.
Ten days pass, Herbert has been buried and Mrs. White has not stopped crying. Her relationship with Mr. White has also begun to deteriorate. She then remembers the monkey’s paw and begs him to wish their son again, after her insistent begging, he does so. However, when the son shows up, knocking at the door, Mr. White wishes the boy would disappear before Mrs. White can open the door.
We end the story with Mrs. White wailing and a street light flickering across the street.
Ok so now that we are done with the summary I’d like to discuss what it is that made this story so interesting. First, let’s begin with a sense of curiosity. We begin the story with what seems like a perfectly calm and typical household, when a man comes, bringing stories of adventure and a mysterious monkey’s paw. When he spoke of the monkey’s paw, it was with a strong sense of fear. Also, after the family makes a wish, I kept waiting for something to happen. It didn’t just appear on the piano, it wasn’t on the bed. No, their freaking son had to die in order for them to receive it! This made me suspect that every wish had a consequence and this was only the first one. I was intrigued to see how the other wishes impacted their lives. I also found Mrs. White’s nature after her son died to be quite interesting. Even though there had been serious repercussions for the two hundred pounds they received, she didn’t seem to care what they would be for bringing the dead back to life. As if freaking resurrecting the dead wouldn’t have a larger consequence than her son dying! Well, nothing serious does happen except the further demolition of the White’s relationship but still. I thought her insistence was interesting.
The things I highlighted were the Sargents reactions to the monkey’s paw, the cocky behavior of Herbert, and the yellow is the ways in which I felt Mr. White’s decisions tied back to the chess game.
I highlighted these because Sargents reactions represented some foreshadow for the danger that was going to come to the Whites based on his experiences with the paw. Herbert’s attitude set him apart from the other Whites. He made a joke about everything and didn’t seem to take the paw seriously, and he was the one to die. He also was the one to insist that they use the wish in the first place so perhaps those two things correlate. Finally, in the beginning of the story we start with a game of chess, which Mr. White loses. During the game, Mr. White didn’t think through all of his decisions, which led to him losing the game. In a way, I suppose that he lost this “game of life” as well. He gave into his wife when she begged for her son to be brought back, despite having the forethought of his son being completely indistinguishable after the tragedy that lead to his death. He never stopped to think about the repercussions of his actions until that moment. He “saw his fatal mistake after it was too late.”