The story involves Mr and Mrs White and their adult son Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend of the Whites who has been part of the British Armed Forces in India, leaves them with the monkey's paw, telling of its mysterious powers to grant three wishes, and of its journey from an old fakir to his comrade, who used his third and final wish to wish for death. Mr White wishes for £200. Their son is killed by machinery at his company, and they get compensation of £200.
Ten days after they bury Herbert, Mrs White, almost mad with grief, asks her husband to wish Herbert back to life with the paw. Reluctantly, he does so. After a delay, there is a knock at the door. Mrs White fumbles at the locks in an attempt to open the door. Mr White knows, however, that he cannot allow their son in, as his appearance will be too horrific. Mr White was required to witness and identify the body, which had been mutilated by the accident and then buried for more than a week. He wishes his third wish, and the knocking stops. Mrs White opens the door to find no one there.