The Monkey's Paw Short Summary | Short Story by W. W. Jacobs | Neb English Support

Neb English Support 

The Monkey's Paw Summary | Short Story by W. W. Jacobs | Neb English Support

The Monkey's Paw by W. W Jacobs



The Monkey's Paw by W. W Jacobs

‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W. W. Jacobs (1863-1943) is a short classic of the horror genre. Here in this short story, Jacobs has provided suspense, a building sense of danger, and real drama, as well as bringing in such themes as family tragedy and the problems with imperialism. Mainly, though, it’s a classic tale of three wishes, which has been imitated and retold many times since (including in The Simpsons).



The Monkey's Paw by W. W Jacobs

On a cold winter night, an elderly man, Mr. White, is at home with his wife and their son named Herbert. Later, both father and son start playing chess. Mrs. White engages herself in knitting sitting near the fire. Meanwhile, a Sergeant-Major named Morris appears and tells the White family of his experiences serving in the British Army in India.  Later, he shows them a talisman that he has: a mummified monkey's paw, on which an Indian fakir or holy man cast a spell, allowing three different men to ask the monkey's paw three wishes.

The monkey's paw is an amulet or object believed to have magical powers and bring good luck.  Whoever has the monkey's paw is allowed to make three wishes, which will be granted.

Morris tells White about the first man who had owned the paw and made three wishes. That man asked for death as his third and final wish;  this is how Morris's got a chance to own the paw after that man. He doesn't reveal which of the three wishes he has asked for himself from the paw, but he clearly has the impression that only a fool would ask for his three wishes.  Later, he advises White not to take the paw from him. He even throws the monkey's paw on a fire to try to stop his friend Mr. White from taking it.  However, Mr. White takes the paw out of the flames.  After the departure of Morris, and prompted by his son, Mr. White asks for the first wish of two hundred pounds from the paw.

The next morning, Mr. White's son Herbert goes to work, and both Mr. and Mrs. White discuss the wish that the husband made the night before.  Later that day, a smartly dressed man comes to the house with bad news.  Earlier that day his son had died in an accident at work after being hit by machinery.  The man, who represents the firm which Herbert worked for, reveals that the company would like to offer Mr and Mrs White a sum as compensation.  The sum is two hundred pounds.  Mr. White immediately faints at this news.

The third part of the story opens with a scene from a few weeks later.  The whites have buried their son, and are mourning.  One night, Mrs. White, who has apparently come to terms with her son's horrific death, wakes her husband in the middle of the night and in desperation asks him to bring the monkey's paw and make one last wish.  She tells him to use the monkey's paw for their last wish in which she desires to see their son Herbert alive once again.

The husband seems reluctant to fulfil such a request but eventually agrees.  He bestows upon the monkey's paw for his son's life, and both husband and wife lie awake that night waiting and hoping.  Then there is a knock at the door, and Mrs. White recognises the figure at the door as Herbert. She begs her husband to let her son Herbert in.

But as the object at the door battles the door to gain entry, Mr. White is horrified by the broken resuscitation 'thing' that he fears is trying to get inside the house. He grabs the monkey's paw.  and quickly makes his third and final wish.  The noise stops at the door immediately, and he opens the front door to find the street outside deserted.  His wife cries out in despair.  All three of Mr. and Mrs. White's wishes have now been granted by the monkey's paw without failure.

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