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Monkey's Paw

In: English and Literature

Submitted By coolfish22
Words 511
Pages 3
Sergeant-Major Morris
Sergeant-Major Morris is the catalyst for the story: he brings the monkey’s paw to the Whites’ home. He is “a tall, burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage,” whose eyes get brighter after his third glass of whiskey at the Whites’ hearth. Morris is both familiar and exotic. Morris and Mr. White began their lives in approximately the same way; Mr. White remembers his friend as “a slip of a youth in the warehouse.” But in his twenty-one years of travel and soldiering, Morris has seen the world and has brought back tales of “wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.” Morris also carries with him the monkey’s paw, which changes all the Whites’ lives forever.
Mr. White
Mr. White is a conservative, satisfied man who enjoys his quiet domestic life. Jacobs shows this in the very first scene in the story, which opens with father and son playing chess in their cozy cottage on a rainy night, while Mrs. White, knitting by the fire, comments on their game. Clearly, the Whites live a contented, if somewhat contained, life. Later in the story, the grandest thing Mr. White can think of to wish for is to clear the mortgage on their little house.
White does have reckless tendencies, though. In the first paragraph of the story, in the chess game with his son, he puts his king “into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment” from his normally docile wife. This recklessness leads him to tempt fate with the monkey’s paw, endangering his family as a result.
Mr. White is a kind of “everyman.” Happily retired, content with his life and his family, he is nevertheless intrigued by the tales of the exotic that his friend, Sergeant-Major Morris, brings home. His curiosity and his greed (a very minor greed, really) prove to be the undoing of his entire family — but these characteristics are what make him so human.
Although he is influenced by all the other characters, Mr. White is the principal force in the story — the one who makes things happen. Morris brings the monkey’s paw, but Mr. White rescues it from the fire and later purchases it from the sergeant-major. Herbert, Mr. White’s son, teases him into making the first wish; and it is his wife who forces him to make the second. He makes the third wish by himself, without even a witness to the wish-making. However, as the new owner of the paw, Mr.
White is the person who makes all three wishes. He is the person who truly sets the story in motion, and it can be argued that he is the character who pays the most awful price for wishing on the monkey’s paw. For although Herbert loses his life, and Mrs. White loses her central reason for living, Mr. White in effect loses his whole family, and must live with the knowledge that these losses are his own fault.

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