A Brief Summary of "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs

by Steven J. Miller

"The Monkey's Paw" is an allegory of the determination to achieve wants and desires through simple and unethical means written in 1901 by William Wymark Jacobs. The characters in the story are provided with easy methods of achieving what they wish for. However, each person who takes the easy way to success suffers greatly. Learning to accept what comes to us and work through our issues, rather than looking for a quick fix, constitutes the essential premise of this book. The moral of the story is that there is a price for everything, and sometimes, that price is steeper than initially expected.

Sergeant Morris

Sergeant Morris is an old friend of John White and his family. The story begins with Morris' return home after spending many years in India. When Morris arrives, he provides a brief account of his adventures and sets the stage for the developing storyline. Mr. White shows extreme interest in the stories of Sergeant Morris and is enthralled with his accounts. The setting of India is relevant, as it provides an air of mystery and creates a feeling of surrealism and exoticism.

The Monkey's Paw

While Morris discusses his adventures in India, the reader learns that he has returned with a mummified monkey's paw. The paw has an unusual ability to bring three wishes each to three men. The original owner used his three wishes and upon coming to his final wish, he wished for death. Morris also used three wishes, which left the possibility of one more man being granted three wishes. He warns the family that the wishes always end in disaster. Morris seems intent on destroying the paw and throws it in the fire to burn. Mr. White retrieves the paw from the fire and forces Sergeant Morris to accept a small payment for the paw.

First Wish

Mr. White's son ridicules the idea that a paw could bring someone three wishes. However, he taunts his father and asks him to wish for $25,000. Mr. White makes the wish and Herbert, his son, goes off to work. In the morning, when the Whites are preparing breakfast, a man from Herbert's work comes to the door. He informs the family that Herbert has been killed and they are the beneficiaries of a $25,000 insurance policy.

Final Wishes

The Whites bury their son and the mother requests for her husband to use one of the last two wishes to bring her son back from the dead. That night, there is a pounding on the front door, but the door has been locked tight. Mr. White's wife rushes to the door, believing that her son has come back. Mr. White, realizing that the monkey's paw provides wishes that only end in disaster uses the final wish to send his son back to the grave and to rest in peace. The knocking immediately stops.


About the Author

Steven Miller graduated with a master's degree in 2010. He writes for several companies including Lowe's and IBM. He also works with local schools to create community gardens and learn environmentally responsible gardening. An avid gardener for 15 years, his experience includes organic gardening, ornamental plants and do-it-yourself home projects.