Summary of W. W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw

The Monkey’s Paw is a short story by author W. W. Jacobs.


The story begins on a cold and wet night with a game of chess between Mr. White and his son Herbert, with Mrs. White is knitting by the fire. Mr. White complains about the weather and location of their cottage which is located a little farther from the town centre.

A friend of the Whites, Sergeant-major Morris visits them. He spoke of wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples in India. He tells them of the dried monkey’s paw that he has with him which has the power to grant three wishes, each to three people. It had a spell put on it by an old fakir, who wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. The monkey’s paw had already been tested by two persons – one of them being the sergeant himself.

Sergeant-major Morris, who is dangling the paw between his forefinger and thumb, suddenly throws it upon the fire, but Mr White, with a slight cry, stoops down and snatches it off.

Though the Whites – in particular, the son, were sceptical about the magical power of the paw, they were curious to test it. Despite the warning issued by the sergeant, Mr. White on the advice of Herbert, asks for a grant of £ 200 towards payment of the final instalment on the purchase of their cottage.

The next morning, Herbert jokes with his parents about the monkey’s paw and then leaves for his duty.

Later that day, while the Whites are seated at the breakfast table waiting for the return of their son from his duty, a man arrives to inform them of the tragic, fatal accident that Herbert had met with. He says that Herbert’s employer firm admit no liability at all, but in consideration of their son’s services, they wish to present with a certain sum as compensation. He hands them a sum of £ 200. The Whites are shocked and dismayed to discover the sergeant’s warning come true.

A week later after the fateful event, the Whites are in a stage of total disarray. All of a sudden Mrs. White recalls that the monkey’s paw has still the power to grant two more wishes to them. She presses her husband to seek the return of their son, restored once more to life. Though Mr. White hesitantly asks the Monkey’s Paw to bring his son back to the life he is frightened of the dire consequence of going counter to the forces of fate and natural order.

The knocking on the door creates panic in the house. Mrs. White frantically tries to unlock the bolts expecting her son at the door. As she struggles and fumbles at the door. Mr. White takes the paw in his hand and asks for the grant of the third wish. The knocking at the door stops and the story ends with the Whites in a state of anguish and despair.

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