The Power of Selfless Wishes in The Third Wish by Joan Aiken

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 612 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Words: 612|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Plot Analysis
  2. Characterization
  3. Symbolism
  4. Conclusion

"The Third Wish" by Joan Aiken is a captivating short story that explores the power of altruistic desires and the consequences they may bring. The narrative revolves around Mr. Peters, an ordinary man, who unexpectedly encounters a magical creature in the form of a talking fish. As the story unfolds, Mr. Peters is granted three wishes, each of which reflects his selfless nature. Through an analysis of the plot, characterization, and symbolism in "The Third Wish," this essay will illuminate the underlying themes of compassion, responsibility, and the unforeseen outcomes of seemingly innocent acts.

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Plot Analysis

"The Third Wish" follows a linear plot structure that effectively carries the reader through the story's central conflicts and resolution. The initial introduction of Mr. Peters and his unfulfilled desires sets the stage for the subsequent events. His chance encounter with the enchanted fish presents an opportunity for transformation and demonstrates the potential for unforeseen consequences in fulfilling one's wishes.

The three wishes granted to Mr. Peters serve as the driving force of the narrative. His first wish, to be rescued from the icy river, encompasses his selflessness, as he worries more about his dog, Marcher, than himself. This self-sacrificing act sets the tone for his subsequent wishes, highlighting his compassionate nature and concern for others. However, it is through his second wish, where Mr. Peters unknowingly brings a young woman back to life, that the story introduces a moral dilemma. While Mr. Peters desires to restore life, he fails to consider the implications of his actions, leading to unforeseen consequences.


Joan Aiken expertly develops Mr. Peters as a compassionate and empathetic character. Through his interactions with Marcher, his genuine care for the dog is palpable. When granted his wishes, Mr. Peters consistently demonstrates a selfless mindset, choosing to use his newfound power to benefit others rather than himself. This characterization reinforces the notion that Mr. Peters is not driven by personal gain but by a sense of responsibility towards others. However, it is this very sense of duty that ultimately leads to his realization of the unintended consequences of his wishes.

The mysterious fish, an integral character of the story, symbolizes both the power and danger that come with granting wishes. The fish acts as a catalyst for Mr. Peters' selflessness, testing his ability to make choices with the well-being of others in mind. The fish's ability to grant wishes represents the potential for transformation and the responsibility that accompanies it.


Throughout "The Third Wish," various symbols are employed to enhance the story's themes. The icy river serves as a metaphor for life's challenges, highlighting the transformative nature of Mr. Peters' wishes. The fish, a creature of the water, represents a source of power and the potential dangers inherent in fulfilling one's desires. The revival of the young woman, on the other hand, symbolizes the consequences of tampering with the natural order of life and death.

Furthermore, Marcher, Mr. Peters' loyal dog, represents loyalty and companionship. His presence throughout the story emphasizes the importance of true friendship and serves as a reminder that even in times of great power, one should not forget those who have stood by them.

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"The Third Wish" by Joan Aiken is a thought-provoking short story that explores the themes of compassion, responsibility, and the unintended consequences of selfless acts. Through the examination of the plot, characterization, and symbolism, the transformative power of Mr. Peters' wishes is illuminated. The story serves as a cautionary tale, reminding readers of the complexity of desires and the importance of considering the wider implications of our actions. Joan Aiken's masterful storytelling leaves a lasting impact, highlighting the significance of selflessness and the weight of our wishes in a world full of unexpected consequences.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Power of Selfless Wishes in The Third Wish by Joan Aiken. (2024, March 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Power of Selfless Wishes in The Third Wish by Joan Aiken.” GradesFixer, 07 Mar. 2024,
The Power of Selfless Wishes in The Third Wish by Joan Aiken. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
The Power of Selfless Wishes in The Third Wish by Joan Aiken [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 07 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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