Why doesn't Paul's mother have any luck in Rocking Horse Winner? What does luck mean to her?
When Paul asks his mother if she isn't lucky, she replies: "I can't be, if I married an unlucky husband". Does this provide a clue to her character?
Do you find Paul's confusion about "filthy lucre" ironic?
Paul's mother says she is "very unlucky" because she "married an unlucky husband". This indicates that she does not take responsiblity upon herself, but instead blames others for her lack of happiness. When Paul asks her if she was lucky "by herself", she responds that she "used to think (she) was, before (she) married", but when Paul looks at her closely he perceives that "she (is) only trying to hide something from him". Paul's mother is unlucky because her values are skewed. She is so consumed by desire for material things that she is unable to see what is really important in life. She has a son, at least, who loves her beyond measure, but she herself can "not feel love, no, not for anybody".
Paul's mother thinks that luck is "what causes you to have money". She says that it is "better to be born lucky than rich", because "if you're rich, you may lose your money...but if you're lucky, you will always get more money". It is ironic when Paul is confused about the term "filthy lucker". He has heard his Uncle use the term "filthy lucre", and since "lucker" and "lucre" are pronounced similarly, and his mother associates "luck" so closely with money, he thinks the two terms are the same. Although his mother points out that they are not, in reality they kind of are. Using his mother's interpretation, both refer to money and its power to corrupt and destroy.
At the beginning of the story the narrator tells the reader, “There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love.” This woman and her husband live above their means. There is never enough money to meet the cost of the appearances they try to portray. Because she never has enough money she feels unlucky. She says she is unlucky because she married a man who was unlucky. She appears to be a selfish, arrogant woman who thinks she is “superior” to others. She comes across as someone who does not accept responsibility for any of the failures the family suffers. She blames everything on being unlucky.
The section where Paul talks about filthy lucre is ironic because that is exactly what ends up killing Paul. The struggle to earn money by gambling is a risky business. Many people today still feel that money gained through endeavors such as gambling is “filthy lucre.” Paul’s mother says, “Filthy lucre does mean money," said the mother. "But it's lucre, not luck." It is very ironic that this is exactly the type of money Paul is earning for his mom.
She's the luckiest character in the story--in the end, she has the money--Paul is rich and loses the money, she is lucky always gets more money--the 1000 over 5 years turns into 5,000 now--and then into the final windfall--about 80,000. But even that isn't all because now she doesn't have to pay for Eton to get rid of Paul--I mean, to provide him a top-notch education.
The story's creepy and funny because it plays with standard moral ideas--like the line you've cited. If someone says this clichéd lament, the clichéd answer is No, no, you're so far from unlucky, look how lucky—look—see? He’s so cute--I'd kill to have a son--you know, he's not going to be around forever, I mean, this age forever, someday he'll be gone and it would be a shame if it took him leaving for you to realize, I mean, he’s not going to live with you forever--look at him! So where’s he in school?
She's the luckiest character in the story--in the end, she has the money--Paul is rich and loses the money, she is lucky always gets more money--the 1000 over 5 years turns into 5,000 now--and then into the final windfall--about 80,000.