The Monkey’s Paw

by

W. W. Jacobs

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Herbert is the young adult son of Mr. White and Mrs. White. He is a happy, loving son to his parents, indicative of the domestic bliss shown at the beginning of the story. Though he teases his father for believing in the magic of the monkey’s paw, Herbert himself has a moment of fear when, after his parents have gone to bed, he sees the image of a horrific monkey’s face in the fireplace and picks up the monkey’s paw. Herbert represents how even the sceptic can be briefly made to believe in the ability to magically alter fate. Herbert works in a factory, where he dies midway through the story in a machinery accident. His death exhibits a common occurrence in the period of industrialization in Britain, as many young people left their family homes to work in factories and many died due to dangerous working conditions created by careless and exploitative factory owners. However, Herbert’s death is also possibly a consequence of his father’s wish upon the monkey’s paw. Both Mr. and Mrs. White believe that Herbert returns at the end of the story, as they use the second wish on the paw to bring him back to life. While Mrs. White believes her beloved son has come back to her, Mr. White fears the consequences of the monkey’s paw, which will only bring back a mangled and decaying version of their son. Notably, the narrative does not explicitly state that Herbert is or isn’t returned before Mr. White wishes him away again, leaving the reality of Herbert’s return, and therefore the magic of the paw, dubious. The reader can interpret the fate of Herbert’s character through two perspectives, one that views Herbert’s death as a part of one’s punishment for trying to alter fate, or as a casualty of the real issue of industrialization that was going to happen regardless of Mr. White’s actions.

Herbert White Quotes in The Monkey’s Paw

The The Monkey’s Paw quotes below are all either spoken by Herbert White or refer to Herbert White. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Academy Chicago Publishers edition of The Monkey’s Paw published in 1997.
Part I Quotes

Without the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes.

Related Characters: Mr. White, Herbert White
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

“If the tale about the monkey’s paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us…we sha’nt make much out of it.”

Related Characters: Herbert White (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Monkey’s Paw
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Part II Quotes

There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked on the previous night, and the dirty, shrivelled little paw was pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues.

Related Characters: Herbert White
Related Symbols: The Monkey’s Paw
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

“I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility…They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.”

Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Part III Quotes

“He has been dead ten days, and besides he–I would not tell you else, but–I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?”

Related Characters: Mr. White (speaker), Mrs. White, Herbert White
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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Herbert White Character Timeline in The Monkey’s Paw

The timeline below shows where the character Herbert White appears in The Monkey’s Paw. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
...the fireplace is burning inside the White family’s home, Laburnam Villa. Mr. White and his son, Herbert, are playing chess. Mr. White makes a daring move with his king, so unnecessary... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
...that he is going to lose because of his mistake, so he tries to distract Herbert by telling him to listen to the wind raging outside. Herbert “checks” Mr. White’s king... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
...rains. Mrs. White tells him that he might win the next game, and she and Herbert share a “knowing glance.” Mr. White’s anger fades and he hides his “guilty grin.” (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Herbert asks if Morris has had his three wishes. Morris says that he has, and his... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
After Morris leaves, Herbert says that the family shouldn’t put much importance on the monkey’s paw, since Morris told... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
Herbert suggests that Mr. White should wish for the money they need to pay off the... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
...cries out, saying that he felt the paw twist in his hand “like a snake.” Herbert remarks that he doesn’t see any money and “I bet I never shall.” Mrs. White... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
After Mr. and Mrs. White go to bed, Herbert stays up, watching the fire. He sees faces in the flames, one of which looks... (full context)
Part II
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
In the light of the next morning, Herbert laughs at his fright the night before. The monkey’s paw has been set aside “with... (full context)
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
...welcome him. He says he is a representative of the owners of the factory where Herbert works. Mrs. White immediately becomes worried, asking if Herbert is hurt. The representative says, “Badly... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
The representative says that while the company takes no responsibility for Herbert’s death, they can offer monetary compensation for his “services.” With a feeling of horror, Mr.... (full context)
Part III
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
“In the huge new cemetery, some two miles distant,” Mr. and Mrs. White bury Herbert. They return to their house, which is now dark and quiet. At first, they can... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
...says that it was just a coincide, and when she begs further, he replies that Herbert “has been dead ten days, and besides he…I could only recognize him by his clothing.... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Horrified by the thought of “his mutilated son before him,” Mr. White finds the paw and brings it to Mrs. White. Her face,... (full context)
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
...is just a rat, and the knock repeats. Mrs. White screams that it must be Herbert and runs to the door while Mr. White tries to stop her. She begs him... (full context)