In “The Wish,” a boy uses his imagination to travel across a red, black, and yellow carpet that he pretends has treacherous parts, motivating himself with the fantasy of receiving a puppy if he is successful. The child’s point of view is more interesting and effective than the narrator’s, because it is vivid and suspenseful. The story is primarily about self-confidence overcoming fear rather than about greed.
In “The Wish,” a boy pulls a scab painlessly off his knee and flings it away. It lands in the distance on a carpet in the hall of his house that is in a pattern of red, black, and yellow.
The boy decides that the red parts of the carpet are burning coals and the black parts snakes. He decides that only the yellow areas are safe and makes up a story that if he can get to the front door walking only on the yellow parts, avoiding the coals and the snakes, he will be rewarded with a puppy. He is doing well when he loses his balance and his hand falls on a black “snake.” He cries out.
The story ends cryptically with his mother looking for him behind the house. Because of the ending, some critics interpret the story not as a boy crossing a carpet pretending it is a dangerous swamp but as a boy gathering courage to cross a swamp by pretending it is a carpet.
The child presents a more interesting view for the reader because he is so imaginative. The scene before him as witnessed through his emotionally invested mind is vivid and suspenseful. For example, we feel as if we are with the boy in an immediate way in the following passage as we experience it through his consciousness.
The snake stirred as though sensing his nearness, and raised its head and gazed at the foot with bright beady eyes, watching to see if it was going to touch. “I’m not touching you! You mustn’t bite me! You know I’m not touching you!”
This is a story about self-confidence overcoming fear. We could argue that the boy is motivated by greed—wanting the dog—but that seems secondary to the desire to face and overcome a challenges. The boy, after all, knows that he is not really going to be rewarded with a puppy.