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The Short Story Of The Rocking Horse English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1723 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread”, said Mother Teresa. Indeed, Mother Teresa’s words have a great impact on describing Paul, the protagonist, in the short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” which was written by D. H. Lawrence. Paul conveys the powerful concept of humans’ hunger for love, appreciation and attention from their loved ones. “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is a dramatic short story that revolves around the relationship within characters, negligence, obsession for money; importance of social standing, opportunism and especially Paul’s quest for the love of his mother. The story is about a young boy named Paul who tries very hard to win his mother’s love so he decides to gamble to win money. Paul has the ability to communicate with a non-human being by riding his rocking horse to determine the winning horse in the upcoming race. However, in the end, Paul tries too hard to win his mother’s love, which tragically results in his death. Paul’s relationship with each of the character reveals the moral theme of the short story. The theme is revealed through the use of relationship and symbolism. Paul’s hunger for love pushes him to do something that is beyond a young normal mentally stable child will do.

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“The Rocking-Horse Winner” is a short story that presents elements of fable, fantasy and fairytale. Like a fable, it presents a moral value that you can learn even though it is not precisely written in the story. Like a fantasy, it presents the boy’s ability to foretell the winning horse after riding on his rocking horse. It seems like there is a connection between the boy and an outer being or state of mind. And, like a fairytale, at the beginning of the story, the reader can easily see how D.H. Lawrence creates the setting of the story in a fairytale-like fashion. He utilizes a style that creates a mythical setting by using fairytale story writing, supernatural forces and symbolic meaning. The beginning words “There was a woman who was beautiful …” is an indication that the story is told by a third party, the narrator, and that the story happened before. Furthermore, as the story goes on, it becomes evident that the boy in the character of Paul is in a pursuit of something. Paul’s fairytale involves his quest for his mother’s love; the object of his journey is to gain access to his mother’s heart, a heart which was described in the story as ” …her heart that was a hard place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody”. The story is similar to any fairytale that children love to read wherein the main character is on a quest for true love.

D.H. Lawrence carries out the theme by using dramatic relationship between the characters. Paul’s mother, Hester, is very eager to fit in with the high demands of the society, but has failed to recognize that her desires are ruining her family. The conversation that occurred between Paul and his mother displays how she feels about Paul. Hester believes that being lucky is the ultimate key of becoming rich when she said “If you’re lucky you have money. That’s why it’s better to be born lucky than rich”. Those words have huge impact on Paul. Paul is determined to gain his mother’s attention as he says “I’m a lucky person”, and then Hester replied sarcastically “excellent”, which makes Paul more compelled in receiving her attention. When Paul started to gamble and win in horse races. He decides to give his mother secretly with 5000 pounds as it arrived in the mail Paul asks “didn’t you have anything nice in the posts for you birthday, mother?” her reply is “Quite moderately nice.” The author shows that even when his mother receives what she desires, she still is not contented and longs for more. Therefore, Paul’s quest for love from his mother is hopeless since Paul’s mother will never be satisfied with the little wealth that she has. Instead, she still longs for more and searches for more even though she already has enough.

Hester’s strong desire for material objects, stylish living and money has become an obsession. Paul inherited that obsession, but he wants to gain money for her mother, not for him, just to get the love that he desires. He believes that if he can give the money that his mother yearns for then she will no longer be in search for money. Instead, her attention will focus on Paul as well as to silence the voices in the house that always screams “There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money”. In her enthrallment over material possessions, Hester fails to provide the love that Paul longs for, instead she imparts to Paul the value of luck which can be analyzed that she equates luck with happiness and love with wealth. Hester imparts the importance of luck on Paul’s young mind.” Hester reveals her relationship towards her husband through a conversation with Paul, Paul asks if she feels she is lucky and her reply is “I can’t be if, I married an unlucky husband”. In this conversation, the author reveals an unhappy marital relationship since Hester associates love with how successful one is, showing that she does not have love her husband because he is unable to provide the amount of money that can satisfy her. Oscar Cresswell, Paul’s uncle who is also interested in horse racing. He does not like to place high bets on horses because he is not sure who the winner will be, which is the exact opposite of Paul when it comes to betting. Paul always asks Oscar to keep it a secret by saying “honor bright”, but Oscar does not take it so seriously yet agrees because he wants to make money. Paul’s death really is not something that affected Oscar Cresswell. When Paul dies, Oscar states, “My God Hester, you’re eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad.” The author presents Oscar Cresswell as an opportunist; rather than stopping Paul from entering into gambling he encourages him and asks him tips on the winning horses. When Paul’s life is about to be taken while uttering the name of his pick for the Derby, Oscar hurries to place a bet on the horse instead of staying to look after his nephew’s condition. Paul’s greatest conflict is within himself, because he allows the pressure from his mother’s desire and society to drive him into yearning social status, the outcome that resulted in his awful death. The desire for money ruins the relationships between Paul’s parents, Paul and his mother, and Oscar and Paul.

The author uses symbolism to reveal the central theme of this short story. The rocking horse is supernatural and it is what Paul uses to determine the winning race horse. According to Harris,” The rocking horse symbolizes not only the lost innocence of childhood but also the lost innocence of a world gone mad with greed”. The rocking horse is a symbol of monetary greed of a family who lives beyond their means. The rocking horse was given to Paul as a Christmas present even though they were struggling to make ends meet. Paul is determined to achieve social status to gain his mother’s attention by finding money through horse racing. He says “now take me to where there is luck”. However, the rocking horse ends up taking his life. The whispering in the house symbolizes the desire to stay and maintain a life that is beyond their means just keep their social status. “There was never enough money” the author shows that the family is always searching for more. Oscar Cresswell is also a significant figure in the short story since his name is the only one written completely. Oscar Cresswell symbolizes wealth, opportunism, gambling and a symbol of luck that Hester longs for since Oscar has everything he needed and even more. Meyers believe that the short story have been inspired by Lawrence’s acquaintance with Lady Cynthia Asquith an English writer known for her ghost stories and diaries. According to Meyers,

The story portrays an upper-class financial anxiety and social pretension, modern man’s mad mechanical gallop for wealth and material goods, and the destruction of a family that chooses money above affection. Paul’s frantic riding on a wooden horse becomes a substitute for maternal love–as money is for sexual love–and a Faustian bargain with evil powers for forbidden knowledge.

Harris also describes the story as a “satire on a society governed by a money ethic.”

According to a study guide compiled by Michael J. Cummings, a Freudian Interpretation suggests that Paul’s frantic rides on his rocking horse are manifestations of an Oedipus complex. Sigmund Freud presents that a male child unconsciously desires sexual relations with his mother. The Freudian Interpretation is noticeable since Paul is very eager to win his mother’s love, so he gambles for money. Gambling is his avenue just to achieve the love he wants from his mother. Paul’s love for his mother is very strong that he becomes so aggressive to win her love that pushes him to gamble, wherein a child his age would probably never thought of.

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According to Henry Hazlitt, “A strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means”. A strong desire of a person to achieve something that is beyond their means affects many people and can push a person to do something undesirable. The strong desire for wealth and social standing caused the awful death of the protagonist, Paul. D.H. Lawrence successfully presents the theme of the story through the relationship between characters and the symbolic interpretations of the short story. Paul, in the end, was successful in gaining his mother’s attention and love; unfortunately it was too late since Paul’s life ended. Indeed, Hester realized how her action affected the people around her yet it was too late for her to show affection and love.


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