“The Monkey’s Paw” by William W. Jacobs

Pages: 2
Words: 584

One of the most powerful and captivating characteristics of short stories is the author’s possibility to cover significant themes and lessons in several pages. William W. Jacobs wrote his “The Monkey’s Paw” about one family’s day and night at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, as several decades ago, not many people believe in magic and the power of a wish. This story shows how unreasonable and stingy desires could destroy human life. Jacobs’s work is not only a symbol of human recklessness but a lesson for the reader not to hurry up and enjoy what is available at the moment. The themes of fate, desire, and greed are the strengths of “The Monkey’s Paw” that prove how the unknown frightens and inspires at the same time.

The importance of fate in human life is a complex and ambiguous question, and Jacobs shares his perspective on the topic. When people are not satisfied with their lives or cannot achieve the desired goals, they prefer to blame their destiny and supernatural powers instead of taking another step and changing something. The story teaches that fate always rules people’s lives, and the intention to interfere with it hardly brings good results (Jacobs, 1902). The Whites are an ordinary family who seems to have everything they want. Still, as soon as they get a chance to try their luck for free, they do not think about consequences and take a thoughtless step to have more money. Their son’s death is what brings them a financial benefit, questioning the essence of fate and the worth of interruption.

Human desire is the theme that is regularly discussed in literary works, and “The Monkey’s Paw” is not an exception. People are free to develop their attitudes toward wishes and how to make them true. Someone prefers to work hard and enjoy the results, and some individuals believe in the possibility of obtaining everything from nothing. The Whites are happy in their way, but this chance arouses the desire for something sensible, even if it is unnecessary (Jacobs, 1902). Instead of appreciating present achievements, the family begins dreaming and wishing for a better future. The idea to beware of desires is more than actual in the story to provide the reader with the most powerful lesson.

Finally, despite the intention to promote equality, justice, and freedom, people neglect their dependency on money and the power of greed. When the family gets the paw, most members start dreaming about the opportunity of having more hands or more money (Jacobs, 1902). Although they have enough at the moment, the first thing that comes to the human mind is to have more. Greed is ruthless and dangerous because it has a quality to be hidden in the most unpredictable place. It can eat from the inside and stay invisible and unrecognizable during the whole life. Thus, the story helps to understand that sometimes it is better to wish for something not to be lost and be free from greed, jealousy, and gloat.

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a short story with a big context for the reader of any age and background. People continue chasing success, richness, and health and never notice what they have already got right now. Jacobs does not blame the Whites for their reckless desire to be richer but feels sorry for their thoughtless greed. The danger of wish fulfillment is not new, but this story reveals a vital lesson – to live and enjoy this life without tempting fate.


Jacobs, W. W. (1902). The monkey’s paw. Web.