drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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In "The Rocking Horse Winner," how does the boy's misunderstanding of "filthy lucre" reveal the mother's thoughts and motivations?

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This is a key moment in the text. We have already been presented to the mother, who becomes obsessed with her supposed lack of money to the point when even the house is filled with strange voices saying "There must be more money! There must be more money!" The children,...

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growing up in this environment, are obviously impacted by this insatiable hunger for more money, which leads to the conversation that Paul has with his mother:

"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."

"Oh!" said the boy. "Then what is luck, mother?"

"It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it is better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucy, you will always get more money."

It is important to note that the word "lucky" plays a very importnat role in the story. The mother's assertion that luck determines whether or not a person has money indicates her single-minded focus on wealth and its acquisition and gives Paul the mistaken impression that to be lucky is to be wealthy, whereas, obviously, there are lots of different ways in which you can be lucky. It is this conversation that places Paul on the path to self-destruction as he inspires himself to be ever luckier to gain more money for his mother. The ending of the story clearly shows how destructive this view is, as the pursuit of luck and money leads to Paul's death, ironically giving the mother what she wants, but taking away one of her most precious possessions.

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How does the boy's mistake about "filthy lucker" from "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence clarify his mother's thinking and her motivations?

The young Paul mistakenly—yet unsurprisingly—mixes up two words that sound alike: lucre and luck (or "lucker"). Lucre, which means money, is pronounced with a long u in the middle and an "er" sound at the end. Lucker is pronounced with a short u in the middle but otherwise the same way as lucre. Therefore, Paul thinks lucre means luck. 

When his mother defines luck as what gets you money—not love, happiness, security, a home, and so on—she reveals her singleminded obsession with money. She then goes on to say that luck is better than money, because money can run out, but with luck you will always "get more money." This shows her addiction to money. Like a drug addict, she always needs "more." One "fix" leads to the desire for another, bigger fix. And like an addict, she will destroy other people to get her fix, because the drug, in this case money, is the most important thing in the world to her. Unfortunately, Paul, a child desperate for his mother's love, doesn't fully understand what he is dealing with.

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How does the boy's mistake about "filthy lucker" from "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence clarify his mother's thinking and her motivations?

The exchange between Paul and his mother about "filthy lucker" is the crux of "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence. The phrase is obviously something the boy has heard, but he does not quite know what it means. The term is "filthy lucre," and it refers to money which is usually gained dishonestly; however, Paul is confused and thinks it refers to luck.

"Is luck money, mother?" he asked, rather timidly.

"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."

"Oh! " said the boy. "Then what is luck, mother?"

"It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That' s why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."

For Hester, Paul's mother, claims to be unlucky and, despite the fact that she has a fine home, servants, and expensive furnishings, she also has an insatiable need for more money. This conversation highlights her thinking as well as her motivation; she wants luck and she wants money. For her, the two are connected: being lucky means having money. Luck is lucre and lucre is luck. 

This is the central conflict of the story, as Hester pursues money and luck at the expense of everything else in her life. Her greed overtakes he heart and there is no more room for love. Paul takes his cue from her and tries to create luck by creating money. (Ironically, of course, the money he makes would be considered filthy lucre because he gets it by gambling, but of course his mother is not deterred by how she gets any money.)When he provides her the money, she still feels unlucky because it is not enough and will never be enough.

In the end, Paul's mother is chasing money and blaming her unluckiness for not having it. In his innocence, Paul solidifies the connection between these two things for her. 

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," how does the boy’s mistake about the "filthy lucker" clarify his mother's thinking?And her motivations

Paul misunderstands what his uncle has said: although he hears the words "filthy lucker," the expression is "filthy lucre."Lucre means monetary reward or gain. 

"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."

"Oh ! " said the boy. "Then what is luck, mother?"

"It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."

Paul's father, according to his mother, has neither luck nor money.  And for this reason, she has become very bitter. 

Paul has it right. His luck is "filthy" and the money is filthy as well, for greed is destroying his family, so much so that his mother will be blinded to even the death of her own son in order to reap the filthy lucre. 

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

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.

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

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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