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Money Madness by D. H. Lawrence

“Money Madness” appears in D. H. Lawrence’s posthumous poetry collection The Ship of Death and Other Poems. This poem is about the greed of humankind for money, wealth, and possessions. Lawrence chiefly centers his thoughts on people’s overt materialism. In this modern world, money has become a parameter to judge one’s worth. It does not matter whether there are any columns of essential elements of goodness or not. People do check how much one has. If he has a meager amount with him, they even make him grovel and eat dirt. 

  • Read the full text of “Money Madness” here along with the analysis section.
Analysis of Money Madness by D. H. Lawrence


Summary

“Money Madness” is all about people’s insanity over money in this materialistic world. Their thoughts are only filled with the crisp notes and jingles of coins. According to the poet, the multitude is mad and an individual has their fair share of insanity with him. People hesitate while sharing a little. The poet describes how money makes them slaves and afraid of losing their possessions. He is of the view that “money-madness” is more frightening than the cause. They don’t care to enslave the penniless fellows. The poor ones are even made to eat dirt. At last, the poet in a vexed tone says that the essential things for survival should be free. Otherwise, this madness must lead humankind to ruthlessly kill each other.

Meaning

The title of the poem “Money Madness” gives readers an explicit hint at the central idea. It is about the insane behavior of men concerning money. According to the poet, money is not a problem in itself. But, the wildness originating from a greedy heart, is the source of all the problems occurring across the world. Besides, through this poem, Lawrence also taps on the lack of compassion and sympathy in modern beings. They judge others’ worth by their material possessions. Lawrence is out of the money-mad critic’s eyes. If he has nothing to spend, people even make him eat dirt and go cold in life’s winter. Sometimes, they provide a meager amount of help associated with an air of supremacy. In this way, Lawrence describes the concept of “money-madness”.

Structure & Form

This poem consists of thirty lines separated into a number of stanzas. Some stanzas contain only one line. In other stanzas, the line count ranges from two to five. There is not a specific rhyme scheme or meter in the poem. So, it is in the free-verse. Besides, the poet speaks in this piece from the first-person point of view. So, it is also an example of a lyric poem. However, the musicality of conventional lyrics is not present in this piece. The lines are prosaic in structure. To create internal rhyming, Lawrence makes use of repetition of words or similar sounds within a line. Apart from that, he concludes the sense of each section by using end-stopped lines.

Poetic Devices

Lawrence uses the following poetic devices in “Money Madness”.

  • Enjambment: It occurs throughout the poem. For example, the second and third lines are enjambed.
  • Repetition: In this poem, Lawrence uses the repetition of “money” and “madness” a number of times. He also uses this device to create an artistic effect. For example, the repetition of “that” in “It is that that I am frightened of” depicts the fearful mental state of the speaker.
  • Irony: The poet uses this device in the very first line “Money is our madness, our vast collective madness”. It also occurs in the following lines.
  • Sarcasm: It occurs in the second and third lines. Here, the poet humorously describes people’s attachment to money.
  • Personification: In the line “for money has a fearful cruel power among men”, Lawrence personifies the inanimate object, “money”.
  • Metaphor: In “Then let him eat dirt, and go cold”, “dirt” is used as a metaphor of denigration and belittling someone.
  • Alliteration: It occurs in “multitude is mad”, “money-madness”, “my money-mad fellow-men”, etc.


Themes

Lawrence’s poem “Money Madness” explores the theme of money and other themes associated with this concept. These include materialism, fear and apprehension, cruelty, and lack of compassion. The main theme of this poem centers on the lust for money. Lawrence describes what human beings are up to for it. It has turned into a precious thing for a living. Hence, people have become ruthless in protecting their wealth. The poet thinks that the money-madness of humankind is the root cause of all the evils. Besides, he also showcases the cruel treatment towards the poor fellows and the fear of having no money in this poem.

Line-by-Line Critical Analysis & Explanation

Lines 1-5

Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.

And of course, if the multitude is mad

the individual carries his own grain of insanity around with him.

I doubt if any man living hands out a pound note with-out a pang;

and a real tremor, if he hands out a ten-pound note.

The poem “Money Madness” begins with an ironic statement. Lawrence describes money as a vast and collective ailment of mankind. It is not limited to an individual. Rather, it has become gout in the legs of humanity. In the following lines, the speaker says that this madness differs from person to person. Each person has his unique share of madness. Though the root cause of this problem is money, its manifestation is different.

The speaker doubts if any man living in this materialistic world holds out a pound without a pang in his heart. By using the expression “pound note with-out a pang”, the poet invests this line with sarcasm. Besides, readers can find an internal rhyming of the “p” sound here. In the next line, the poet humorously says that if a person holds out a ten-pound note, it is a moment of “real tremor” for him. Through these lines, Lawrence describes one facade of this money-madness. It deals with the selfishness of humankind.

Lines 6-12

We quail, money makes us quail.

It has got us down, we grovel before it in strange terror.

And no wonder, for money has a fearful cruel power among men.

But it is not money we are so terrified of,

it is the collective money-madness of mankind.

For mankind says with one voice: How much is he worth?

Has he no money? Then let him eat dirt, and go cold.–

In the following lines, Lawrence reveals another symptom of insanity. It deals with the idea of enslavement. According to the poet, money makes us all fearful. It enslaves our minds that are filled with greed. Like slaves were drawn to the ground and tortured, the rich do the same with the poor fellows.

The poet personifies money as a slaver or master. It enslaves people and gets them down on their knees. Then, it makes them grovel before it, in a “strange tremor”. Through this image, the poet conveys the helpless submission of men to money.

Besides, he invests money with a “fearful cruel power”. Money in itself is worthless. It is people’s perception that makes some notes look precious. When a person gets involved with a thing so deeply, it naturally makes them fearful of losing it. Through these lines, Lawrence is referring to this apprehension.

Furthermore, the poet says that money is not the cause of his apprehension. Rather it is madness associated with it that the poet is afraid of. Why does he fear this insanity so much? It is because of the behavior of the money-mad men. They judge others by their monetary worth. If one has nothing, they do not hesitate to leave them in suffering. The cruel treatment towards them is compared to eating dirt or going cold in life’s winter.

Lines 13-20

And if I have no money, they will give me a little bread

so I do not die,

but they will make me eat dirt with it.

I shall have to eat dirt, I shall have to eat dirt

if I have no money.

It is that that I am frightened of.

And that fear can become a delirium.

It is fear of my money-mad fellow-men.

There is no difference in the speaker’s case. If he is penniless, people won’t think twice before condemning him. He thinks he will be given a little bread as he does not die. If he dies soon, how can they take sadistic pleasure from his suffering? Hence, the poet says they show their apparent humane selves in order to make him enslaved to their power of money.

Then, they will make him eat dirt along with the bread. The help they provide to the speaker is a form of business. They try to purchase one’s self-worth with a bit of financial assistance. However, from the poet’s tone, it is clear that he is afraid of such a senseless bargain. He does not want to sell himself to anyone if he has no money. It is the fear of submitting oneself to the rich that makes the poet apprehensive. By the repetition of “I shall have to eat dirt” the poet reflects his tensed mental state.

In the following line, Lawrence reiterates this idea and says that he is fearful of it. According to him, this fear can become a delirium. So, the fear of the “money-mad fellow men” can cause a long-lasting mental disorder in others.

Lines 21-30

We must have some money

to save us from eating dirt.

And this is all wrong.

Bread should be free,

shelter should be free,

fire should be free

to all and anybody, all and anybody, all over the world.

We must regain our sanity about money

before we start killing one another about it.

It’s one thing or the other.

In the first lines of this section, Lawrence ironically talks about the role of money in his life. It is nothing but a type of protection against condemnation. In the long run, it would save people from eating dirt. What human beings are up to is wrong. The poet did not expect this.

He is of the view that all the basic needs for survival should be free to everybody. These include food, shelter, and fire. Lawrence uses the repetition of the phrase “all and anybody” for the sake of emphasis.

The last three lines of the poem contain another important idea. Here, the poet speaks about the ruthlessness of humankind. According to him, people must regain their senses before they start killing each other for money. It is not limited to this only. There are several tragic consequences of “money-madness”.

Historical Context

The poem “Money Madness” was first published in D. H. Lawrence’s poetry collection The Ship of Death and Other Poems. It was posthumously published in 1932. This poem was written around the 1920s, a few years before Lawrence’s death. In that phase, he mainly wrote poems revealing the cruelty, inhumanity, and brutality of humankind. His pessimism concerning the modern world is reflected in his post-World War verses. In “Money Madness”, he chiefly describes the mindset of materialistic humans. He reveals how they adore money. They can go far below their standards for it. Besides, he also reveals the implications of this insanity for money.

Questions & Answers

What is the meaning of “Money Madness”?

The term “Money Madness” is an ironic reference to the greed of human beings for money. It is compared to a mental disorder. People do senseless things and react irrationally. Hence, Larence describes this peculiarity as insanity.

Does money make you feel better?

Indeed, money makes us feel better. But, it is a short-term solution to a major problem, unhappiness. To be happy, one needs to improve one’s internal state. External developments are transient. While inward developments help one to find fulfillment in life. Money has no role in this inward development of mankind.

How does D. H. Lawrence show that the possession of money is a kind of madness?

The poet points out the peculiar actions human beings take in order to fulfill their hunger for money. Not only that, they devalue others for not having money. In this poem, he shows their peculiar reaction while handing over money to others. So, the possession of money makes them do absurd things as lunatics.

What is the message of the poem “Money Madness”?

Through this poem, the poet advises us to regain our sanity. Otherwise, the madness for money can lead human beings to kill each other without a justifiable cause.

What is the poet afraid of in “Money Madness”?

The poet is more afraid of the “money-madness of mankind” than money itself.

What is the opinion of the poet in the poem “Money Madness”?

In this poem, the poet opines that human beings must regain their sanity in order to restrain them from killing each other.

How do you think people can overcome money madness?

People can overcome the craze for money by self-interrogation. They have to ask themselves what is the real worth of money. It is just a means for survival, not a cause of fulfillment. In the materialistic world, they are controlled by money. To regain their sanity, they have to be the masters of money, not slaves.

What happens when the multitude goes money-mad?

When the multitude goes money-mad, they react irrationally for the fear of losing money. They judge others’ worth by their wealth and treat them inhumanely.

Why does the poet repeat the words “all and anybody”?

The poet repeats the phrase “all and anybody” for emphasizing the fact that the basic needs for survival should be free to everyone living across the world.

Why does money make us quail?

When one gets too attached to money, it makes them fearful of losing it. This possessiveness is the root cause of their insecurity.

Why does the poet state that money is our “collective madness”?

The term “collective” hints at the fact that “money-madness” is not a problem for a few of us. In this materialistic world, it has become a universal ailment. The difference lies in its manifestation in each individual.

Why must we regain our sanity about money?

We must regain their sanity about money to stop them from causing irrevocable harm to humanity.

What do you think the poet means by “I shall have to eat dirt”?

Through this line, Lawrence hints at the inhumane treatment one gets from society if he has no money.

Why does the poet say “And this is all wrong” in the poem “Money Madness”?

According to the poet, if one has no money, he is treated with contempt and indignation. The way of weighing one’s worth by money is wrong.

What is the significance of “multitude is mad”?

Through this phrase, the poet describes the universality of the concept of “money-madness”. There are not a few but most of us are mad about money.

What does it mean to regain sanity?

To regain sanity means to be sensible and rational.

What is the “strange terror” associated with money?

The “strange terror” of money is associated with our fear of losing it.

Why does the poet say that he will be forced to eat dirt if he has no money?

The poet says so to hint at the fact that it does not matter what one had. People judge one’s worth with money. If the poet does not have any, he will face indignation like others.

What is the “cruel power” of money?

Money invests rich with the “cruel power” and makes them the unofficial rulers of the world. In this materialistic society, the rich have the power to treat the poor inhumanely.

How is a person’s worth valued by money?

According to the poet, if money is a parameter to judge one’s worth, he will be weighed by his wealth. If he has no money, he must face inhumane treatments. It seems as if they are slaves to wealthy people.

What does the poet mean when he says money has got us down?

By this line, the poet describes how humans have gone below the humane standards for money. Their attitude shows to what extent their minds have gone down for it.


Similar Poems about Materialism

  • “The Toys” by Coventry Patmore — This poem hints at worldly toys such as money in order to describe our childish attachment with them.
  • “The Vagabond” by Robert Louis Stevenson — In this poem, the speaker wishes to be free from the clutches of the materialistic world.
  • “To a Poor Old Woman” by William Carlos Wiliams — This piece describes how a poor woman finds pleasure in the ripe plums.
  • “Dawn at Puri” by Jayanta Mahapatra — In this poem, Mahapatra taps on the themes of human suffering and hunger.


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