V. S. Pritchett Questions and Answers

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In V.S. Pritchett's "The Fly in the Ointment," what is the meaning of "haven't lost sixpence and found a shilling have you," and does it have any significance?

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In terms of British currency, a sixpence (no longer minted in the U.K.) is worth less than a shilling. The eNotes source states that...

The sixpence...or half-shilling, was a British pre-decimal coin, worth six (pre-1971) pence, or 1/40th of a pound sterling.

The shilling is worth more than a pence. Prior to the change in currency in 1971, the shilling was worth 12 old pence. And another source notes that sixpence is approximately six "pennies."

Harold's father asks his son:

You know, I've been thinking about you --  and you look worried. Haven't lost sixpence and found a shilling have you, because I wouldn't mind doing that?

To find some meaning in this, it's important to look at it in the context of the story as a whole. Harold's father (called "the father") has just lost his business. Harold enters, purposefully, to offer "moral support" for his father. When the father makes note of the pence and shilling, it reflects his preoccupation with money. I believe he is inferring that the...

(The entire section contains 620 words.)

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