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D. H. Lawrence

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Discuss and summarize the poem "Money Madness" by D. H. Lawrence.

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D. H. Lawrence's poem "Money Madness" addresses what the speaker sees as increasing greed in our society and how we are growing mad as a result. The speaker criticizes the injustice of anyone having to beg to eat and stay alive, and he warns that society's collective hunger for more money will lead us to kill one another if we do not stop to think rationally.

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D. H. Lawrence's poem "Money Madness" was written in the 1920s and can be read as a criticism of the consumerist, materialistic culture of those times. From the opening line ("Money is our madness, our vast collective madness"), Lawrence explicitly equates money with madness, implying that it makes us irrational and foolish.

In the third stanza, Lawrence gives an example of this madness when he describes, with deliberate hyperbole, the physical pain that he imagines people must feel when they have to part with even "a pound note." He then describes money as a cruel, oppressive master before which "we strange terror."

In the fourth and fifth stanzas, Lawrence highlights a much more insidious consequence of our "collective madness," namely the fact that we value a person's worth according to the amount of money he or she does or does not have. If somebody does not have any money, then we tend to consider them worthless. We let that person "eat dirt, and go cold." This appears to be demonstrably true if we consider common attitudes toward homeless people. Unfortunately, many people look down upon or are otherwise scornful of homeless people simply because they do not have the money or the material possessions that we associate with normality and respectability.

In summary, Lawrence portrays money as something which makes us mad and causes us pain and also as something which enslaves and degrades us. "Money Madness" can be interpreted as a Marxist poem, in that its criticisms of our attitudes toward money are very similar to the criticisms of Capitalism expounded by Marx. Marx, like Lawrence in this poem, also pointed out that the way we think about and treat one other is poisoned by the economic framework in which we live.

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“Money-Madness,” written by D. H. Lawrence in the 1920s, has a message that is appropriate for the world today.   In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in absolute poverty. Every year 15 million children die of hunger. According to Lawrence, no one should have to beg for food to eat. 

Obsessing over money is insane.   We must work to stop the fixation about wealth before there are wars and killing for the sake of money. 

The poet is afraid for society.  If man becomes so consumed by money, he forgets what else is important in the world.  Financial issues are stressful.  Often, society judges a man by his riches.  If he is poor, then society says: Let him eat dirt or beg for it.

Lawrence again emphasizes that the world has become preoccupied with money and having wealth. It is madness to place such importance on money which can be lost in the blink of an eye. People do not like to share their money. The larger the amount the more painful it becomes to give it away. 

Man cowers before the god of wealth—Money can stress a person, The consumption of riches has power over man. It is the collective or  shared wealth that is most frightening.  The narrator states that people will:

For mankind says with one voice: How much is he worth?
Has he no money? Then let him eat dirt and go cold –

And if I have no money, they will give me a little bread,
so I do not die…

The narrator hopes that if he has no money, mankind will give him bread, so that he might live. Of course, they may make him eat dirt.  This fear of the “money hungry fellow man” can confuse a person.

To summarize his point, Lawrence avows that people should not have to beg for food to eat.  Food, shelter, and fire should be free for everyone. Mankind must regain its composure concerning the financial aspect of life before we start killing one another over it.



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Discuss a critical appreciation of Lawrence's poem, "Money Madness."

Lawrence's poem speaks to the condition of how wealth inverts control.  Wealth and money is such a seductive force in Lawrence's poem that we are not in control of it, but rather it is in control of us.  The poem itself is highly Romantic in nature, especially in how it seeks to reject something that is so valued by others and something upon which primacy in society is placed.  From a criticism standpoint, this is consistent with Lawrence's poetry, in general.  His own statement about his poetry is that it served to be seen as an "autobiography."  This is certainly the case in "Money Madness," which presents a personalized view of the horror of money.  Lawrence's own background from a working class mining family that he grew to detest for the condition in which it placed his family, one can sense an antipathy towards money and the materialist fetishes caused by it.  When Lawrence says that money makes us "quall," one can see his own background as a child emerge in such a line.  From a criticism point of view, the poem represents Lawrence's own vision of what he wishes his poetry to be seen as in terms of a "new heaven and earth."  This can be seen in the poem in the closing lines of the poem:

We must regain our sanity about money
before we start killing one another about it.
It's one thing or the other.

Almost coming across as a demand to change what is into what should be, Lawrence's poem fits the basic template of how he both envisioned his poetry from a critical point of view and how he saw what the purpose of his poetry to be.

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