How does the boy's mistake about filthy lucker clarify the mother's thinking and her motivation in "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

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rogal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paul and his mother have the conversation on luck one day when Paul asks his mother why they cannot afford to have a car of their own. His mother tells Paul that they cannot afford to have a car of their own because they are the “poor members of the family.” She also tells him that they are poor because his father is not a lucky man. This reminds Paul of a remark that his Uncle Oscar made one day about “filthy lucker” and how Paul thought that it meant money—and that luck, as such, is the same as money. Paul is then corrected by his mother, who tells him the difference between “luck” and “lucre.” She also explains to him that “luck is not money, rather, what causes one to have money.”

Through this conversation, Paul’s mother comes to herself understand some of the reasons why her family never seems to have enough money, though, as the story progresses, one gets the feeling that perhaps the family would have enough if it got its priorities right and if its members were contented with the little they have. According to Paul’s mother, it is “better to be born lucky than rich,” since, with luck, one can always make more money. Paul’s questions make her look at her role in wealth creation in the family. She then concludes that she too is “unlucky as she is married to an unlucky man.” She resolves that God is the giver of luck and, therefore, wealth. This realization does not, however, help Paul’s mother to improve her family’s situation by lessening her obsession with money. Her selfishness finally drives Paul to his untimely death.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paul’s mother realizes that if she had luck she would have money and would thus be happier.

The mother is very selfish, and feels that she deserves more than she has.  Money will make her happy.  She is described at the beginning of the story as having “no luck.”

Young Paul asks his mother if money is the same as luck.

"No, Paul.  Not quite.  It's what causes you to have money."

"Oh!" said Paul vaguely. "I thought when Uncle Oscar said  filthy lucker, it meant money."

"Filthy lucre does mean money," said the mother,   "But it's lucre, not luck."

She tells him that if you are lucky you have money.  Paul's understanding of the world is very limited.  He just wants to make his mother happy.  She can't be happy, and has no interest in anyone else's happiness.  In her selfishness, she fails to see what her persuit of luck and money is doing to her son.  This ultimately leads to his destruction.

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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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