Monkey Paw Short Story Theme Essay

The Theme of Greed in "The Monkey's Paw" Essay

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Greed is a sin of excess that every single human being has at least a little bit of. When someone has the opportunity to get as much of something as they possibly can, they will go to great lengths to get everything out of it. In the story “The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs, the White family experiences a big test of greed, and they even tamper with their fate to get it. Before the Whites even knew about the paw, they were living a normal, but decent, lifestyle that got them by day-to-day without any troubles. Once they received this one idol in their life that could grant any three wishes that they could possibly think of, their mind set was altered and their greediness to change their fate kicked into play. Jacobs uses themes of…show more content…

He is also described as a reckless thinker, which is proven in the opening scene of the story when he moves his king “into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment. This recklessness leads him to tempt fate with the monkey's paw, endangering his family as a result” (DISCovering Authors). Mr. White’s son, Herbert, also plays a smaller, but huge part of this story. Herbert is the kind of person that likes to be a little bit silly and joke around about anything. After Sergeant-Major Morris leaves their cozy home, Herbert starts to tease his mother and father telling them that they should make the their wish and to wish for money. After they wish for the money, it is kind of ironic that he starts to make fun of the wish because it has not showed up yet, even though his death ends up being the factory that gives his parents the two hundred pounds that they wished for. Herbert jokes around by saying “Well, I don't see the money,’ said his son as he picked [the paw] up and placed it on the table, 'and I bet I never shall” (1282). And Herbert never did see it, because he was the money. Mrs. White is described as “a calm, reserved woman. In the story's first scene, Jacobs notes that Mr. White's chess moves are so ‘radical’ that they ‘even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire’—as if drastic events must take place in order for her to even speak” (DISCovering Authors). Mrs. White is the common

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The Danger of Wishing

The Whites’ downfall comes as the result of wishing for more than what they actually needed. Even though Mr. White feels content with his life—he has a happy family, a comfortable home, and plenty of love—he nevertheless uses the monkey’s paw to wish for money that he doesn’t really need. As Jacobs suggests, making one seemingly harmless wish only intensifies and magnifies desire as each subsequent wish becomes more outlandish. After receiving two hundred pounds for Herbert’s death, for example, Mrs. White jumps to the conclusion that the paw has unlimited power. She forces Mr. White to wish to bring Herbert back to life, a wish far more serious than their first. Unchecked greed, therefore, only leads to unhappiness, no matter how much more one asks for. Intense desire also often leads to unfulfilled expectations or unintended consequences as with Herbert’s unexpected death and rise from the grave as a living corpse. Put simply, Jacobs is reminding readers to be careful what they wish for because it may just come true.

The Clash between Domesticity and the Outside World

Jacobs depicts the Whites’ home and domestic sphere in general as a safe, cozy place separate from the dangerous world outside. The Whites’ house is full of symbols of happy domesticity: a piano, knitting, a copper kettle, a chessboard, a fireplace, and a breakfast table. But the Whites repeatedly invite trouble into this cozy world. Sergeant-Major Morris—a family friend, seasoned veteran, and world traveler—disrupts the tranquility in the Whites’ home with his stories of India and magic and warnings of evil. He gives Mr. White the monkey’s paw, the ultimate token of the dangerous outside world. Mr. and Mrs. White mar the healthy atmosphere of their home again when they invite the Maw and Meggins representative inside, a man who shatters their happiness with news of Herbert’s death. The final would-be invader of the domestic world is Herbert himself. Mr. White’s terrified reaction to his dead son’s desire for entrance suggests not just his horror at the prospect of an animated corpse, but his understanding, won from experience, that any person coming from the outside should be treated as a dangerous threat to the sanctity of the home.

More main ideas from The Monkey’s Paw


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