The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs: Summary, Analysis & Movie

"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs is a chilling horror-fiction tale that delves into the dangerous allure of wishes and the unfathomable consequences of tampering with fate. Set in the backdrop of British colonial rule, the story follows the Whites, who come into possession of a cursed monkey's paw capable of granting three wishes. As they navigate the tempting possibilities, they soon learn the high price they must pay for meddling with the supernatural. A haunting exploration of human desires and the unforeseen ramifications of their fulfillment, "The Monkey's Paw" leaves readers with a sense of foreboding and a cautionary reminder to be wary of the unknown forces that lurk in the shadows.

The Monkey’s Paw Summary

A Tale of Horror and Superstition

"The Monkey's Paw" is a chilling horror story with a touch of superstition and mystery. It begins with the arrival of Sergeant-Morris, a British officer who regales the Whites with tales of his adventures in British India. Morris recounts the legend of a cursed monkey's paw that can grant three wishes but comes with unpredictable and dire consequences.

The Whites' Decision and First Wish

Intrigued by the story, the Whites decide to take possession of the paw. After some discussion, they choose to wish for 200 pounds to pay off their house debt. However, upon receiving the money, they find that their wish has not brought them the anticipated change in fortune.

Tragedy Strikes

Shortly after their wish, the Whites receive devastating news— their son Herbert has been killed in a factory accident. They are offered compensation equal to the amount they wished for, leaving the couple grief-stricken and heartbroken.

A Desperate Wish

Unable to bear the loss of their son, Mrs. White desperately asks her husband to use the paw again to resurrect Herbert. Mr. White, aware of the potential consequences, grants her wish, and suddenly, there is a knock at the front door.

The Final Wish

Fearful of what might be on the other side of the door, Mr. White rushes back to bed. Mrs. White, in her desperation, opens the door to find no one there. In a moment of realization, Mr. White makes his third and final wish using the paw, though the specific wish remains unknown. The story concludes with the Whites coming to terms with the grave consequences of tampering with fate and the monkey's paw.


In "The Monkey's Paw," W.W. Jacobs weaves a suspenseful and haunting narrative of wishes gone awry and the dark consequences of meddling with the supernatural. Through the story's exploration of human desires, fate, and the price of wishes, readers are left with a sense of dread and the understanding that some things are best left undisturbed.

The Monkey’s Paw Analysis

A Haunting Tale of Horror and Tragedy

"The Monkey's Paw" is a gripping horror-fiction that unfolds through the lens of a third-person narrator. Throughout the story, a sense of dread, foreboding, and impending disaster looms, drawing readers into a world filled with loss and desolation. At its heart lies the central conflict between Mr. White's desire to fulfill his wishes and the cursed monkey's paw, which holds the power to bring prosperity or ruin to his family and life.

Setting and Cultural Allusions

Set during the era of British colonial rule, the story alludes to the thought, culture, and morality prevalent in countries like India. References to Indian fakirs and the magical tales of Arabian Nights add to the exotic and mysterious ambiance. The characters' discussions about foreign and exotic places reveal a mix of wonder and misguided superiority, providing insights into their attitudes and perceptions.

Irony and Symbolism

"The Monkey's Paw" is laden with irony and symbolism, adding depth and complexity to the narrative. Despite the paw's powerful ability to grant wishes, its three users experience tragic outcomes, leading to an unfortunate irony. The monkey's paw itself symbolizes great and unexplained magic, evil, and death. Other symbols, like the cold wind and dark night, contribute to the sense of ominous and tragic ambiance that permeates the story.

Chess: A Metaphor for Consequences

The clever use of chess as a metaphor cleverly stages the subsequent moves by Mr. White and Herbert concerning their wishes. It serves as a reminder that every action has consequences, just as every move in chess shapes the game's outcome. The story underscores the importance of considering the potential ramifications of one's choices.

Powerful Imagery and Mysterious End

W.W. Jacobs employs vivid imagery throughout the text, immersing readers in the story's action. From the haunting face of the monkey in the fire to the chilling image of Herbert's mutilated corpse, the dreary and desolate road, and the wintry and quiet night, each detail adds context and value to the narration.

The story's enigmatic conclusion stays true to its overall tone. Readers are left wondering about Mr. White's final wish and the true cause behind the knocking at the front door of the house, leaving an air of mystery and uncertainty that lingers in the mind long after the tale is told.


"The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs is a haunting and tragic tale that masterfully weaves elements of horror, irony, symbolism, and mystery. Through the characters' desires and choices, the story explores the consequences of human actions and the unfathomable power of fate and magic. With its vivid imagery and enigmatic conclusion, the story leaves an indelible mark on readers, prompting them to reflect on the consequences of their own desires and decisions.

The Monkey’s Paw Setting and Mood Analysis

Setting: A World of Horror and Mystery

In this chilling tale of fate, magic, and human frailties like greed, the setting plays a crucial role in creating an eerie atmosphere. The story is primarily set in the early 20th Century, encompassing both British occupied India and England.

The White family resides in England, while Mr. Morris, a seasoned journeyman, has traveled to far-flung places such as the Indian subcontinent. This mix of locations adds to the exotic and mysterious ambiance of the narrative.

The Whites' house, situated in a seemingly deserted location, becomes the focal point for the unfolding events. With most of the action taking place at night, a sense of foreboding and impending tragedy pervades the narrative. The moment of revelation about the demise of their son casts a shadow of sorrow over the tale.

The writer skillfully portrays the authentic nature of British society during the empire's rule, evoking a sense of wonder and awe toward the exotic stories and sights of India, which accurately reflects the notions of the time.

Mood: Ominous and Mysterious

The mood of "The Monkey's Paw" is imbued with a sense of darkness and mystery, befitting its horror genre. From the very beginning, a foreboding feeling lingers, hinting at something devastating about to unfold.

The tone of the story evokes eerie suspense, with sounds of loud banging on the door, images of empty and dark streets, and terrifying apparitions of monkey-like creatures in the fire. These elements contribute to the overall sense of dread and fear.

The characters' voices are filled with trepidation, and suspicion permeates the atmosphere. The exception is Herbert, whose lack of fear foreshadows a tragic fate as he meets a terrible end in a work accident.

The writer masterfully maintains the suspense and horror until the very end, skillfully withholding the truth about the final visitor at the door and leaving the third wish of Mr. White—the last one the paw could grant—shrouded in mystery.


In "The Monkey's Paw," the setting and mood play vital roles in creating a chilling and ominous atmosphere. The early 20th Century backdrop, featuring British occupied India and England, adds to the tale's enigmatic ambiance. The sense of fear, suspense, and mystery keeps readers on the edge of their seats, as they journey through a world filled with supernatural forces, unforeseen consequences, and the haunting magic of the monkey's paw.

The Monkey’s Paw Characters

Sergeant-Morris: A Traveler with a Dark Secret

Sergeant-Morris is a strapping army officer with a wanderlust for storytelling and exploring distant lands, particularly India. Intrigued by the mysterious and exotic, he brings the cursed monkey's paw into the Whites' lives. Having used the paw himself, he warns them about its dangerous powers and the potential consequences of meddling with fate and magic.

Mrs. White: A Loving Mother Consumed by Grief

Mrs. White is a devoted wife and caring mother who is captivated by Morris's tales of his travels. She is more accepting of the paw's magical powers but later regrets her desire to use it. When she learns of her son's tragic demise, grief consumes her, and she becomes desperate to use the paw to bring him back to life. Her desperation leads her to rush to the door upon hearing a knock, believing it to be her resurrected son. However, her husband's quick intervention saves her from the potential consequences.

Herbert White: The Vital and Humorous Son

Herbert White, the young son of Mr. and Mrs. White, adds vitality and humor to the story. Initially, he dismisses his uncle's tales of the paw as mere folklore. However, he jokingly encourages his father to make wishes for wealth and prosperity, leading to unintended and tragic consequences. Herbert meets a horrifying accident at work due to the fulfillment of the wish, and his fate becomes uncertain when his father wishes to nullify the previous wish.

Mr. White: A Repentant Man Seeking Redemption

As the head of the household, Mr. White is a man burdened with regret. Realizing the grave mistake of using the paw for selfish desires, he feels responsible for the tragic loss of his son. He becomes determined not to invite further devastation upon his family. Using his third wish to cancel the second one, he possibly saves his wife from a dreadful end. Mr. White also displays a fascination for travel and different cultures, expressing a wish to visit the Indian subcontinent.


In "The Monkey's Paw," the characters each play a pivotal role in the unfolding events and the tragic consequences that follow the use of the cursed paw. From the adventurous Sergeant-Morris to the grief-stricken Mrs. White, the humorous Herbert, and the repentant Mr. White, their actions and desires lead to a gripping tale of fate, magic, and the human longing for the unattainable.

Major Themes in The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Consequences: The Unavoidable Outcome of Actions

One of the central themes in "The Monkey's Paw" is the idea that every action or word bears consequences, whether desirable or not. The characters in the story meddle with powerful and inexplicable forces, resulting in life-altering consequences. The initial possessor of the paw ended up asking for his own death as his final wish. Morris, aware of the potential consequences, lives in constant fear. Mr. White ultimately learns the harsh lesson that actions have consequences, prompting him to correct his second wish by using the third to cancel it. The story serves as a stark reminder of the gravity of our choices and the responsibility we bear for their outcomes.

Dreams and Wishes: The Power and Pitfalls of Desires

The power of dreams and wishes is another prominent theme explored in the story. The characters' weaknesses, such as greed for material wealth, lead them to make wishes that bring more harm than good to their lives. The story emphasizes the often unrealistic and exorbitant nature of our desires, while overlooking the potential costs and consequences. The Whites, driven by their wishes, tragically lose their only son for a mere two hundred pounds. "The Monkey's Paw" serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing desires to cloud judgment and neglecting the price one may have to pay for their fulfillment.

Fate: Tempting the Unpredictable

Fate plays a significant role in the story, as the characters' actions and decisions lead them to tempt and toy with the mysterious forces of the monkey's paw. The narrative serves as a cautionary lesson against playing with things beyond human understanding and meddling with fate. The consequences of such actions are depicted as unexpected, unpredictable, and often unpleasant. The story warns against tempting fate and the potential catastrophic outcomes that may arise if it spirals out of control.

Magic & Mystery: The Allure of the Exotic and the Unknown

At the core of "The Monkey's Paw" lies the theme of magic and mystery. The story revolves around the magical powers of the cursed monkey's paw, capable of granting wishes with grave consequences. The fascination with exotic objects and stories, such as the paw and places like India, drives the characters' actions. The number three, recurring throughout the story, adds to the mysterious elements, as three wishes are granted to three individuals by the paw. The story delves into the allure of the unknown and the dangerous fascination with objects and tales that captivate human imagination.


In "The Monkey's Paw," W.W. Jacobs weaves a compelling narrative that delves into the intricacies of human desires, the price of wishes, and the inescapable consequences of our actions. The themes of consequences, dreams and wishes, fate, and magic & mystery intertwine to create a haunting tale that serves as a timeless cautionary reminder of the complexities of life and the unpredictability of the forces beyond our understanding.

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