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The Monkey's Paw
The Monkey's Paw
by W.W. Jacobs
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The Monkey's Paw Theme of Family

At the center of "The Monkey's Paw" is the White family. The family is made up of Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son Herbert. Their loving home is disrupted by the arrival of the monkey's paw and Herbert's subsequent death. Morris mentioned that wishing on the monkey's paw leads to utter disaster, and the fact that Mr. White's first wish is twisted such that Herbert dies indicates that a death in the family is the worst possible thing that could happen to the Whites – worse, for example, than losing their home. Mr. and Mrs. White's intense grief over Herbert highlights how much they adored their son, as does Mrs. White's desire to have her son back, no matter the cost.

Questions About Family

  1. From the little we see of it before Herbert's death, how would you describe the Whites' family life?
  2. What do we learn about the Whites' family life after Herbert dies?
  3. After Herbert dies we find out that there used to be other White children, though we don't know how many or how they died. The Whites seemed to be able to rebuild a happy life after their other children died. Do you think they'll be able to do the same now that they've also lost Herbert?
  4. What do Mr. and Mrs. White's different reactions to the knocking on the door (presumably Herbert, back from the dead) show about their love for their son?
  5. How would you describe Mr. and Mrs. White's relationship? Mrs. White's relationship with Herbert? Mr. White's relationship with Herbert?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Without Herbert, the Whites will never feel like a family again.

Mr. and Mrs. White's relationship makes this not just a horror classic, but a tender love story as well.

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