illustrated portrait of English author D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence

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On what basis is man's worth considered in the poem "Money Madness"?

The basis of a man's worth in the poem "Money Madness" is his financial status. Those with money are considered powerful, and those who cannot afford basic necessities are seen as disposable; many do not care if the poor are forced to eat "dirt"' or "go cold."

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In this poem, the speaker argues that society demonstrates a particular "madness" when its members place an incredible emphasis on achieving high materialistic standards. In fact, he believes that a man's worth is typically only assessed by the amount of money he makes:

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

Using this standard, those with little or no income are seen as disposable and invisible, and they are often tossed to the side of society. Although acts of charity may provide just enough "bread" to avoid starvation, those with a lesser financial status are forced to eat the metaphorical "dirt" of society along with any financial assistance they might receive.

The speaker argues that judging a man's worth by his financial status is unjust and unfair. Instead, he argues that "bread," "shelter," and "fire," the essential elements of living, should be free to everyone "all over the world."

This tendency among mankind to evaluate a person's worth by his financial status "frightens" the speaker, who has witnessed the cruel treatment the poor receive at the hands of more "powerful" men. The poem emphasizes that an obsession with money creates conflict and discord between members of a society as they devalue those who cannot or do not earn enough to afford basic necessities.

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