Making Meanings 

The Monkey’s Paw 

Reading Check 

    a. Explain how the monkey’s paw got its powers. 

    b. What is the first wish, and who suggests it? 

    c. What seems to be the effect of the first wish? 

    d. What is the second wish, and why doesn’t Mr. White want to make it? 

    e. What is the final wish? How do you know? 

Shaping Interpretations 

1. Are the Whites’ three wishes granted? Do they get what they really want? Explain. 

2. What did the holy man want to prove to people by putting the spell on the paw? In your opinion, has the holy man made his point? Why or why not? 

3. How could the first wish have been worded to avoid the tragic consequences? the second wish? 

4. What things does the sergeant major say that foreshadow, or hint at, the Whites’ fate? 

5. Compare Mr. White’s and Herbert’s attitudes toward the monkey’s paw. Why is it logical that Herbert would be the victim of the first wish? 

6. Unlike Mr. White’s first two wishes, the third wish doesn’t seem to have unexpected disastrous consequences. Do you think the granting of the third wish will also produce a tragic outcome? If so, what might it be? 

Challenging the Text 

7. Do you think it is believable that, knowing what he does, the sergeant major continues to carry the paw and then allows a friend to wish on it? Defend your position.

Choices: Building Your Portfolio 

Writer’s Notebook 

1. Collecting Ideas for a Character Analysis 

We learn about characters from 

• what they do 
• what they say 
• what they think 
• how they are described 
• what other characters say about them 

At different points in the play, each of the Whites has ideas about how to use the monkey’s paw. Their ideas reveal a great deal about them. Jot down what you learn about Herbert, Mr. White, and Mrs. White from their reactions to the paw. 

Comparing and Contrasting 

2. Story to Stage 

Read the opening section of the original short story by W. W. Jacobs. Then, write a paragraph in which you compare and contrast the opening of the play version and the story version. What decisions did the dramatist make in adapting the story? Explain whether you prefer one version over the other, and why. 

Creative Writing 

3. Wish Carefully

The Monkey’s Paw draws on a “formula” that is shared by dozens of world folk tales: 

• An elderly couple is given three wishes. 
• They make their first wish unintentionally, or it is granted in a way they didn’t expect. 
• The second wish is a stupid or hasty response to the problems created by the first wish. 
• The third wish must be used to prevent the catastrophe caused by the first two wishes. 

Write your own humorous or scary “three wishes” story. Use the basic cause and effect structure described above.


Grammar Link: Mini-Lesson 

Lie and Lay, Sit and Set, Rise and Raise 

Lie and lay, sit and set, and rise and raise are verb pairs that often cause confusion. Remember that the second verb in each pair expresses an action directed toward an object—a person or thing named in the sentence; the first verb simply expresses an action. (For example, you lie down, but you lay your school bag on the table first.) Below are some of the forms of these six verbs. Notice that the past tense of lie is lay

Base Form Present Participle  Past   Past Participle
 (have) lain 
(have) laid 
(have) sat 
(have) set 
 (have) risen 
(have) raised 

Try It Out 

Copy the following paragraph, choosing the correct verb from each underlined pair. 

Mr. White (1) sat/set his chess piece down as he (2) raised/rose to answer the door. The sergeant major (3) laid/lay the shriveled paw on the table, then (4) sat/set down to begin his story. Soon after, Herbert (5) laid/lay lifeless beneath the ground.

Click here to navigate to: the story, or the play.


Back to the Table of Contents