The Monkey’s Paw

by: W. W. Jacobs

Herbert White

The possible transformation of Herbert White from a gentle, happy, and devoted young man into a threatening monster is the central horror of “The Monkey’s Paw.” A thoughtful and loving son, Herbert plays chess with his father and gently teases his mother. He is the only member of the family who works, so readers can assume that he supports his parents in their old age. Herbert believes that Sergeant-Major Morris’s stories are nothing but a pack of tall tales and treats the monkey’s paw with irreverent humor. He encourages his father to wish for an emperorship and then jokingly suggests he wish for two hundred pounds to pay off the mortgage. Herbert does not believe for a moment that the paw is magical, but he unwittingly predicts the outcome of the wish when he tells his parents that he knows he’ll never see the money. The sunny, skeptical quality of Herbert’s nature makes his eventual transformation, induced by his father’s wish, more horrifying. Mr. White fears that his son has become a horribly mangled, evil being, after wishing him back to life. The fact that Jacobs never actually describes who—or what—knocks repeatedly on the Whites’ door, however, suggests that the caller may not really be Herbert’s revived corpse.