The Monkey’s Paw

by

W. W. Jacobs

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The Monkey’s Paw: Part II Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the light of the next morning, Herbert laughs at his fright the night before. The monkey’s paw has been set aside “with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues.” Mrs. White remarks at the silliness of Morris’s tale of magic, and besides, she says, “how could two hundred pounds hurt you?” Mr. White says that “Morris said the things happened so naturally…that you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence.” Herbert playfully mocks the wish as he leaves for work, asking his father not to come into money and become a mean and greedy man while he’s gone.
Herbert’s dismissal of the supernatural in the light of day suggests that one only believes in altered fates and magic under a troubled state of mind. Morris’s statement suggests that the paw’s supposed magic really could be only consequence. Herbert’s joke about his father becoming mean while he’s gone hints at the real tragedy which will happen once Herbert leaves the safety of the house.
Themes
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
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Mrs. White laughs along with her son, but throughout the day, she finds herself scurrying to the door when the mailman knocks. She also feels uneasy when she sees a well-dressed stranger lingering outside their gate. When he finally enters the gate to the property, Mrs. White throws off her apron and rushes to bring him inside the home.
Mrs. White, against her better judgement, believes in the magic of the paw, showing that she too would like to believe one can alter fate. Her taking off the apron shows a shedding of domesticity caused by the sinister intervention of the outside object (the paw).
Themes
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
The Uncertainty of Reality Theme Icon
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
The stranger seems troubled and distracted as the Whites 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 hurt…but he is not in any pain.” Mrs. White is initially relieved, but then she realizes what this phrasing means. After a long silence, the representative says that Herbert was “caught in the machinery.” Mr. White says that Herbert “was the only one left to us…It is hard.”
Herbert’s death shows a common consequence of industrialization, the death of workers due to unsafe factory conditions. The representative’s awkward and indirect manner and the fact that he is a stranger shows the exploitative practices of industrialization. Additionally, this outside agent coming into the home and destroying the family further emphasizes the danger of the outside world.
Themes
Inside vs. Outside Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
The representative says that the company wished him “to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss.” He begs that they “will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.” The Whites do not reply, their faces colored by shock and grief.
Both the representative’s rejection of responsibility (by blaming the company) further emphasizes the exploitation of workers and the dehumanizing aspects of industrialization.
Themes
Industrialization Theme Icon
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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. White asks how much. The representative answers, “Two hundred pounds.” Mrs. White screams and Mr. White faints.
This company values its employees’ lives only in terms of dollar amounts. The fact that the amount awarded is the exact same as the amount wished for suggests that Herbert’s death is Mr. White’s consequence for attempting to alter his fate.
Themes
Fate vs. Freewill Theme Icon
Industrialization Theme Icon
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