Analysis of “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs


Summary of “The Monkey’s Paw”

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a suspenseful and chilling short story written by W.W. Jacobs in 1902. The story follows the White family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. White and their son Herbert, who receive a mysterious and mystical monkey’s paw from a friend, Sergeant-Major Morris, who served in India.

Sergeant-Major Morris warns the family that the monkey’s paw can grant three wishes but must be careful what they wish for, as there may be unforeseen and devastating consequences. Initially, the family is skeptical of the paw’s power, but their curiosity gets the best of them, and they decide to make a wish.

The first wish is made by Mr. White, who wishes for 200 pounds to pay off their mortgage. A few days later, their son Herbert is killed in a tragic accident at work, and the family receives a sum of money from his employer, exactly 200 pounds, as compensation for their loss. The Whites are devastated by their son’s death, but Mr. White begins to believe that the paw’s power is real.

Mrs. White, still grieving over the loss of her son, becomes obsessed with the idea of using the paw to bring him back to life. Despite her husband’s protests, she makes a second wish for their son’s return. In the middle of the night, they hear a knock on their door, but when Mr. White answers, he finds no one there. He realizes his wife’s wish has been granted, but not as they had hoped. Mrs. White becomes hysterical and demands that her husband make a third wish to undo the second one.

Mr. White reluctantly makes the final wish, but before he can utter the words, he is overcome with fear and throws the monkey’s paw into the fire, destroying it. The story ends with the family sitting silently, unsure of what will happen next.

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of playing with fate and the consequences of getting what one wishes for. The story raises questions about the nature of power, human knowledge limits, and fate’s role in our lives. It also explores themes of grief, loss, and the lengths people will go to avoid facing the reality of death.

Thus, “The Monkey’s Paw” is a timeless and haunting tale that continues to captivate readers with its eerie atmosphere, vivid imagery, and powerful message about the dangers of tempting fate.

Major Themes of the Story

The Monkey’s Paw explores various themes. One of the major themes is the consequences of greed and ambition. The story focuses on the consequences when people seek to satisfy their desire for more than they currently have. The main characters, the White family, are dissatisfied with their current life and seek to improve it by acquiring wealth. Their desire leads them to discover a magical monkey paw that promises to grant their wishes. However, the wishes come at a great cost, and the family learns that not all desires can be fulfilled.

Another theme in the story is the consequences of tampering with fate. The monkey paw symbolizes the unknown and the uncontrollable, and the consequences of using it are unknown. Using the monkey paw to manipulate fate, the White family inadvertently unleashes a chain of events leading to tragedy and despair.

Finally, the story explores the theme of the fear of the unknown. The monkey paw symbolizes the unknown and the supernatural, and the fear of what it represents creates tension throughout the story. The unknown is a source of fear and apprehension, and the story shows how it can lead to irrational decisions and unfortunate consequences.

Analysis of “The Monkey’s Paw”

W.W. Jacobs’ short story “The Monkey’s Paw” is a timeless classic that has captivated readers for over a century. The story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of wishing for things we do not fully understand. The story has a simple plot, but it effectively conveys its message.


The monkey’s paw symbolizes the human desire for more, a common theme in literature. The paw is described as “mummified,” representing the death of desire. However, the paw still has the power to grant wishes, symbolizing the potential dangers of unchecked desire. The story shows how humans often do not fully understand the consequences of their actions and desires, leading to disastrous outcomes.


The characters in the story represent different aspects of human nature. Mr. White represents the desire for more, Mrs. White represents fear, and Herbert represents the naivety of youth. The characters’ motivations and desires lead to their downfall, making the story a cautionary tale.


The story’s setting is also important in conveying its message. The White House is described as being isolated and remote, symbolizing their detachment from reality. The story takes place on a dark, stormy night, emphasizing the danger and consequences of their desires. The setting creates a sense of tension and fear, making the story more effective.

The story’s plot is simple, but its message is complex. The story warns readers of the dangers of unchecked desires and the importance of accepting the consequences of our actions. The story reminds us that we should be careful what we wish for because we may not fully understand its consequences.

Thus, “The Monkey’s Paw” is a classic short story that has stood the test of time. Its simple plot and complex message make it a cautionary tale that is still relevant today. The story’s symbolism, characters, setting, and plot create a powerful message that readers will not soon forget. The story reminds us that we should be careful what we wish for because the consequences may be more than we can handle.

Moral Lesson of the Story

The Monkey’s Paw is a classic tale that teaches a powerful lesson about the dangers of greed and the consequences of making impulsive wishes. The story begins with a family receiving a strange, magical monkey paw from a friend. The paw can grant three wishes but at a terrible cost.

The first lesson that we can learn from this story is that everything has a price. In the case of the monkey paw, each wish comes at a steep cost, often resulting in the loss of something dear to the person making the wish. This teaches us to be careful about what we wish for and to think carefully before making any decisions that could have negative consequences.

Another important moral lesson from this story is that we should appreciate what we have and be content with our lives. The main character in the story, Mr. White, is dissatisfied with his life and wishes for wealth and power. However, his wishes only bring him misery and pain, and he eventually learns to appreciate what he had before.

Finally, the story teaches us that some things are beyond our control. No matter how much we wish for something, we cannot always make it happen. This reminds us to accept the things we cannot change and focus on what we can control.


To conclude, “The Monkey’s Paw” is a cautionary tale that warns us about the dangers of greed, the importance of appreciating what we have, and the limitations of our power. This story has stood the test of time and continues to inspire readers today.

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