iron thumb

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Senior Member
In D.H Lawrence's The Lost Girl, the author says that Mr. Witham, the father, looked like a leprechaun tyrannizing for many years over the Sunday School children. He says that this man:

dig the children in the back with his horrible iron thumb, if the poor things happened to whisper or nod in chapel!

I read about leprechaun on wikipedia, but there was no mention of him having an iron thumb. What does Lawrence mean? why iron thumb? does he mean this man tyrannized? ran tight ship or something like this?
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The "iron thumb" has nothing to do with "leprechaun".

    I am fairly sure that he means the man literally "dug the children in the back with his thumb" (a quite painful action, but one he could do silently with no-one in the church seeing it) to stop them whispering or wake them up.

    I have no way to know whether his thumb was very hard (it felt to their backs like iron) or if he had a prosthetic (artificial) thumb made of iron (which seemed horrible to the speaker).
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    I agree with the answers above. I wonder if Lawrence was possibly playing on the expression "iron fist" to make the point that Witham was a strict man.
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