“[H]e would sit on his big rocking horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily.” This passage, from D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” describes the “mad little journey” of Paul as he searches for the luck his mother desires, yet lost since she “married an unlucky husband.” As the child, too old to legitimately play on the wooden toy, makes his furious rides on the rocking horse, rides that leave him exhausted and lead to his untimely death, the reader begins to wonder what drives the boy to exert himself so, what powerful force compels him to ride on. An answer can be found in Paul’s Oedipal relationship with his mother and the unconscious motivations that are contained therein. The Oedipal conflict refers to the “triangular relationship between father, mother, and son” in which the son competes with the father for the affection and attention of the mother, wishing to replace the father’s role in the mother’s life (Bhugra 70). This complicated and unhealthy relationship between parents and offspring flourishes in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Paul knows that his mother is not happy and would like better resources with which to “keep up the style.” When his mother is reduced to secretly working outside of the home to maintain their lifestyle, Paul determines to take action. The boy realizes that his father is not able to satisfy his mother financially and, therefore, decides to take upon himself the role of husbandly provider and protector of his mother, thus establishing his role in the Oedipal dynamic. In doing so, Paul places himself in a position of responsibility-real or imagined-that is too mature for his years, a position that he cannot fill the way he thinks he can. Despite his age, Paul finds that he can meet the financial needs of his mother, as his father never could, because he discovered that he is possessed of “luck.” Luck, he feels, is the trait that his mother desires and his father lacks and that reveals to him the upcoming race horse winners. Paul’s frantic journeys on his rocking horse leave him with the information necessary to win more money to provide for his mother, thus proving himself more suited and capable than his father for the care and affection of the mother. Paul’s act of riding the rocking horse, through which he gains the names of the future winning horses, is a symbolic act of the sexual competition with his father for the love of his mother. As Paul charges along on his horse he does so “wildly” with his hair “tossed” and his eyes having an odd “glare in them.” Every passage describing his episodes on the rocking horse alludes to the act of sexual intercourse. He “mounts” his horse to begin his “furious ride” in hopes to “get there.” Paul’s exploits also are described in sexually charged language such as “frenzy,” “madly surging,” “urging his wooden horse,” and “straddling.” The rocking horse itself stares off in the aftermath with “[I]ts red mouth slightly open, its big eye wide and bright,” a rather tell-tale description that evokes the effects of sexual passion. It is in his sexual feats with the rocking horse that Paul is able to compete with and prevail against his father as a worthy and suitable husband for the mother. Paul’s climaxes leave him with the ability to meet his mother’s needs, one of the many duties where his father is found lacking. The boy’s success in his competition with his father only enhances his Oedipal complex and encourages him to continue in his attempts to replace his father as the man in his mother’s life. Still, Paul’s crazed exploits on his rocking horse are, in a physical sense, unproductive and unsuccessful. No matter how furiously or frantically he rides the little wooden horse he is left in the same spot, never leaving his room where the journeys upon the rocking horse occur. Paul makes his rides wishing that his pretend missions on his horse will fulfill his hope to “at last get there.” The nature of the rocking horse leaves him stagnant-vainly tottering back and forth with the goal to “get there” while never getting anywhere. If we see the rocking horse as Paul’s partner in a symbolic sex act we must then realize that he, as does his father, falls short as his riding “goes nowhere” (Snodgrass 122.) As he wins more and more money on the race horses, Paul realizes that he can now give his mother what his father cannot-financial support and peace of mind from the house’s whisperings for the need of more money (“There must be more money! There must be more money!”). Yet, the boy soon comes to understand that his mother’s love is (at least monetarily) worth more than he had expected and he is forced to fulfill his self-appointed role of provider. His Oedipal complex leaves him feeling that he must succeed over his father and ultimately demonstrate that his capabilities exceed those of his father. Paul determines that he must ride himself ragged in order to meet his goal to replace his father in his mother’s life, and maintains his constant competition with his father to give his mother what he thinks she needs and desires. As Paul attempts to meet his mother’s needs he becomes overly sensitive to the unspoken desires she seems to express. Paul tries to pick up on the nonverbal clues of his mother so that he can prove his ability to anticipate and fulfill her needs as a husband would (Tedlock 210). He hears her silent entreaty for someone to hush the voice of the house that whispers its demands to her distraught mind. He picks up on his mother’s dissatisfaction with her marriage and life in general through the frigidity she exhibits both toward her incompetent husband and her unwanted children (Snodgrass 118). He imagines that she requires his support to find the happiness and luck she feels she has lost. She tells Paul, “I used to think I was [lucky], before I married. Now I think I’m very unlucky indeed.” Recognizing the voids in his mother’s life Paul attempts to restore her missing luck and fulfill the obligation in which his father has proven disappointing: financial support. The blame for Paul’s confusion does not solely stem from his mother’s example, for much of the fault lies with his father. As the literal husband and expected provider of the family Paul’s father’s ability and performance has fallen devastatingly short. He disappears off “into town to some office” and “though he had good prospects, these prospects never materialized.” His physical and emotional disappearance from the family begins to take its toll on the misguided young boy. The destruction of love between the husband and wife, resulting from his fading away, serves as a silent encouragement for Paul to develop his Oedipal tendencies toward his seemingly vulnerable mother (Koban 392). The father’s neglectful behavior may stem at least partially from a sense of failure. He has been unable to support the lifestyle his wife wishes to have–a lifestyle that no man short of a king could afford to give–for, as Lawrence indicates, her “tastes were just as expensive” even when the family income was decreasing. As he realizes that he cannot ever meet her lofty and unrealistic expectations Paul’s father withdraws from his wife and his family, perhaps hoping that if left alone his inadequacies and problems will simply disappear. His evasive behavior, however, leaves him in a vulnerable position both as a husband and provider. As his withdrawal increases alongside his wife’s dissatisfaction a vast gap in the family dynamics begins to form (Snodgrass 118). It is this chasm that Paul feels not only responsible but encouraged to fill as worthy provider to the family, and more particularly as a provier for his clearly neglected mother. While Paul’s father does play a role, however passive and indirect, in the deepening complex of the boy, it is his mother who is the driving force of his psychosis. Paul’s mother actively encourages, whether consciously or subconsciously, his efforts to replace his father. She openly tells him that it is his father’s lack of luck that causes her unhappiness and state of being, what she considers, “the poor members of the family.” As she feels the weight of disillusionment with her dissatisfying mate she attempts to groom her son into the perfect husband and provider. In her desperation to create the perfect little man–albeit one that to her remains eternally untouchable–she has supported his Oedipal overtures meant to win her love (Piedmont-Marton). Paul’s mother instills in him the desire to meet her needs as a lucky husband when she tells him that she cannot be happy until she is lucky and she cannot be lucky “if [she] married an unlucky husband.” Selfishly, she seeks her own fulfillment through the devotion of her son, completely unconcerned for what her temperamental behaviors do to the child too young to understand or manage the feelings she evokes in him. Although she tries to pretend that she is unaware of what is really going on with her misguided son, she implicitly supports the escapades that bring her closer to her goal of financial fulfillment. She uses Paul’s desire to please her to exploit and manipulate her son, telling him of the whisperings of the house for more money, knowing that he would do anything to win the love and affection she withholds from him. Paul’s longing to fulfill his mother’s needs drives him to appease the whispers that plague her. The whisperings she hears from the house become a powerfully compelling force in his young mind and are also echoed in “the springs of the still-swaying rocking horse, and even the horse, bending his wooden, champing head, heard it”(Martin 64). Paul’s Oedipal complex is driven by the need for his mother’s love, love that she doesn’t know how to give her children, but knows how and would give to a provider. Paul’s mother found herself living a life she had become painfully disillusioned with with a man she felt had misrepresented his capabilities to care for her. The boy’s mother felt “coldly” to the children that were “thrust upon her.” This statement itself shows the mother’s feeling of resentment toward her children, children she felt were imposed upon her as unwanted burdens she neither asked for nor desired. When she saw her children she “felt the centre of her heart go hard” and realized that she “could not feel love, no, not for anybody.” Still, she seemed a model of maternal excellence, for everyone who saw the family commented on what a great mother she was and how much she adored those children. Only the mother and her children knew the truth of her familial apathy-“they read it in each other’s eyes.” It was this lack of maternal love that sent Paul looking for another method through which to earn his mother’s affection and attention. If he couldn’t receive her interest as her child, perhaps he could win it as her provider, filling the position in which his father was incompetent. His desperate attempts to make his mother see how suitable he would be as a husband-figure keep failing as she will not seriously consider her child as a provider, even while she grooms him to be one. On several occasions Paul tries to call his mother’s attention to his new-found ability to give her what he considers to be immense financial support. Even as he confides in his mother that he was lucky he felt that “she did not believe him; or, rather, that she paid him no attention to his assertion. This angered him somewhat, and made him want to compel her attention.” Paul finds only frustrating outcomes to all of his endeavors to prove himself good enough for his mother. His confusion is intensified by the mixed messages he receives all the while from the mother who pushed him to become the ideal little man and at the same time remained repulsed by the child she still resents and with whom she feels no maternal connection. Still, Paul, in the limited understanding of a child’s mind, determines that the only way to receive his mother’s approval is to demonstrate even more completely his ability to take care of her. Seeing that the only way to win his mother’s love was to take over the husbandly function of provider, it is no wonder that Paul falls so deeply into his Oedipal role.Paul is, however, much too young to take on the responsibility of acting as the bread-winning man of the house. The assignment of protector and provider Paul placed upon himself, in his attempt to gain the much sought after love of his mother, literally kills him. His need for his mother’s love, love which he couldn’t give to him as her child, drives him to find an effective means by which to her affection. Yet, it is the love originally sought for, not that of a husband or lover, that Paul finally received from his mother as she witnesses his collapse and feels “all her tormented motherhood flooding upon her” and rushes “to gather him up.” Paul’s acting on the Oedipal conflict was not an endeavor he chose for himself–he would have gladly welcomed maternal affection–rather, it was something forced upon him. It was his last resort to obtain that which he craved, that for which he willingly gave all of himself, that which he ultimately gained through the sacrifice of his own life-his mother’s love.Annotated BibliographyBhugra, Dinesh and Kamaldeep Bhui. “Is the Oedipal complex universal? Problems for sexual and relationship psychotherapy across cultures.” Sexual and Relationship Therapy 17.1, 2002. This article discusses the nature of the Oedipal conflict. The authors describe the origin of the Oedipus complex in Sophocles’ play Oedipus Tyrannus. Of particular note is that Sigmund Freud first referred to this complex in his work as condition only suffered by males desiring to replace their fathers and take over his role in the mother’s life.Koban, Charles. “Allegory and the Death of the Heart in ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner.'” Studies in Short Fiction 15.4 (1978) 392. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=7125117 This article discusses the disintegration of the relationships of family unit in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” The father’s “fading away” from his role as protector and provider of the family leaves the mother disturbed and insecure. Although it could be argued that it was her needy financial demands that drove him to retreat, it is the mother’s sense of abandonment that leaves her needing someone to fill the role he has left unoccupied. She finds that someone in her conflicted son, Paul.Lawrence, D. H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Literature: A Portable Anthology. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. 339-352.Martin, W.R. Fancy or Imagination? “The Rocking Horse Winner.” College English 24.1(1962) 64-65. This essay discusses the rocking horse and how it reflects Paul’s devotion to his mother.Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. “An Overview of ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner.'” Short Stories for Students (1997). This article summarizes and explains “The Rocking-Horse Winner” as a subject for literary critics. Piedmont-Marton discusses the fable aspects of the story as well as the role of the mother in enhancing Paul’s Oedipal complex. She suggests that Paul’s mother desires him to be the perfect man and so encourages his internal conflict and competition with his father as she strives to make her son the unattainable husband she longs for.Spilka, Mark. D. H. Lawrence: A Collection of Critical Essays. New York: Prentice Hall, 1963.Key portions of this book deal with the psychoanalytical issues of the characters in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” The sexual symbolism of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is most evident in the rocking horse itself. The horse symbolizes the sexual act as Paul rides and rides but never gets anywhere on his horse. As the horse is only a representation of a real horse so is Paul’s behavior with the horse only a representation of the sexual act. His riding on the wooden toy gets him as far as his mimicked sexual experience does – nowhere. The psychoanalytical aspects of the story also provide insight into the workings of the characters’ minds. The father’s withdrawal from his responsibilities is provoked by his wife’s continual assessment of him as lacking, and so he fulfills her prophesy by becoming the incompetent husband she has deemed him to be. This withdrawal of the husband then invites Paul to pursue his Oedipal conflict as he attempts to replace his disappointing father in his mother’s life. Because of his very young age, Paul is not able to understand the implications that come with his desire to replace his father. He is ultimately set up to fail as he cannot fulfill a role that is too mature for him to undertake and not his place to fill in the first place. Still, despite Paul’s inability to be the man in his mother’s life, his mother encourages his Oedipal complex as she offers her love and affection only to a provider and not to a child whom she feels represents her life with a husband who has disappointed her. Tedlock, E. W. D. H. Lawrence, Artist and Rebel. New Mexico: The University of New Mexico Press, 1963. The portions of this book which refer to “The Rocking-Horse Winner” consider the costs that people experience in the effort to get ahead in the world and how those costs are registered in D. H. Lawrence’s short story. The ability to meet the worldly needs of the mother is seen be Paul as the way to win her love. Both characters are trying to get ahead in the world and have their needs met, but the costs for both end up being greater than the value of the initial desire.
Horseracing has always been a magical sport and referred to as “The Sport of Kings”. The excitement and drama has always caused new fans to flock to the sport. In “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence it is no different. The racetracks and the thrill of gambling mesmerize Paul, and fuel his obsession with winning money for his mother. Throughout “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Lawrence uses various literary techniques to satirize society and show how the immense desire for luck and money, which are unnecessary for true happiness, only lead to the destruction of the individual.The unique style of “The Rocking Horse Winner” is significant in revealing the deeper meaning of the story. Throughout the story, fairytale-like elements are juxtaposed with deeper, more realistic elements, which help the story resonate with deeper meaning. Lawrence does not use the characters’ names in the beginning of the novel, which seems to establish the story as a simple story, with a light-hearted, fairy-tale like tone. However, it is juxtaposed with more realistic elements, such as family issues and overwhelming obsessions. Like fairy tales, the characters in this story are in pursuit of something important to them. Paul’s ability to predict the winner is not realistic, and is more likely to be a component of a fairy tale. His lucky ability, however, is juxtaposed with his inability to please his mother, as he cannot fulfill her desires. Thus, the shift in style highlights and intensifies the obsessions of Hester and Paul. The story later evolves into a deeper, more complex satirical story, which explores the pursuit of unattainable luck and materialism, as well as the consequences of being fully consumed by an obsession.The main theme present throughout “The Rocking Horse Winner” is the immense desire for money, which is shown through various characters. Hester is so obsessed with money that it dominates her thoughts and stifles her ability to love others. She is very concerned with maintaining her social status, and keeps spending to make sure “the style was always kept up” (801). Hester is so greedy that when Paul arranges to give her one thousand pounds per year for five years on her birthday, she talks to her lawyer and asks to receive a lump sum payment to pay off her debt. However, when she does receive the lump sum, she uses the money to buy more, instead of paying off her debts, which causes the family to plunge farther into debt. In essence, the more money Hester receives, the more money she wants and the more money she needs to stabilize her financial situation. The situation is so severe that the house whispers, “There must be more money!” (801). It is because of Hester’s desire for money and Paul’s desire to please his mother that he is engulfed by the need for more money, which eventually leads to his disturbing death. Hester has never expressed her love for her son and does not seem moved by Paul’s, but will gladly take the money he left behind, showing her shallow tendencies. These characters show how pursuing the quest for money is a fruitless quest, as it leads to Paul’s death and contributes to Hester’s incapacity to experience human emotions, as money is all she feels she needs.Lawrence uses juxtaposition throughout “The Rocking Horse Winner” to criticize society and the disjointed family structure, as well as materialism, which was fairly common during his time. The relationship between Hester and her husband to her children is the main example of the disjointed family structure. Lawrence juxtaposes the concern Paul has for his mother with her lack of concern for him. Paul devotes himself to his mother and to earning her money to fulfill her wants, while Hester cannot provide Paul with the love and comfort that mothers are expected to provide. The lack of money in the house has caused friction between all of the family members, and Hester further splits the family apart by trying to maintain her social status instead of concentrating on her family. Hester’s “heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody” including her own son (800). Only when Paul becomes completely out of control, does Hester “feel a sudden anxiety about him that was almost anguish” (809-810). This is significant because it is Paul’s desire for his mother’s love that drives him to find his luck to fulfill her desire for money. Lawrence uses this to criticize the absence of loving relationships between parents and children, as Paul does not have a close relationship with either his mother or father. This shows that Hester’s desire for money has completely torn the family apart.More importantly, the relationship between Paul and Hester shows a unique relationship between mother and son. Paul desperately, but ineffectively, tries to win his mother’s love by becoming lucky, to make up for his father’s deficiency in providing for the family. Paul’s father is only mentioned as a man who “never would be able to do anything worth doing” (801). His absence shows he does not play a major role in his children’s lives, and his lack of regard for his family’s financial situation shows he is not fulfilling his fatherly role. Paul falsely associates luck with love, believing that if he is lucky, his mother will love him. Since Hester believes her husband is unlucky, Paul falsely concludes that luck is the reason why she doesn’t love his father. Paul attempts to become lucky, and fill the void left by his father. Also highlighted through Lawrence’s use of juxtaposition is Hester’s greed in contrast to Paul’s generousness. Paul keeps giving to the family to relieve the financial situation, but Hester wants more and more money. When she is offered one thousand pounds per year, she wants all of the money at once. This juxtaposition highlights and satirizes the materialism and consumption of society, and shows how Hester further distances herself from her family by allowing her obsession with money to completely consume her.The symbol of Paul’s rocking horse is vital in the overall meaning of the story. The rocking horse is Paul’s method of becoming “lucky” and fulfilling his mother’s desire for money. However, like the rocking horse, Paul’s efforts are ineffectual, as they never make any forward progress. A rocking horse does not move forward, therefore the effort in riding it is fruitless, just as Paul’s actions to win money for his mother are fruitless, as his actions do not satisfy her desires, but intensify them. Paul becomes so engulfed by his obsession for pleasing his mother by finding the winner of the next race by “madly surging on his rocking horse” that he becomes consumed in a state of madness and frenzy (810). His horrific death shows how he destroys himself in his quest for attaining wealth.Style, juxtaposition, characterization, and symbolism all contribute to the idea that the pursuit of immense wealth is fruitless and results in the demise of the individual. Paul’s death is significant because, by showing that he fails to help his mother or to receive the love he deserves, it exposes Lawrence’s views that money cannot buy love and that devoting one’s life to something unattainable, such as luck, is worthless.
The short story The Rocking Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence focuses on Paul, a young boy who is obsessed with luck in order to earn money for his family. Paul assumes, that if he wins enough money for his family through luck, he can win his mother’s affection and the family’s happiness. However, the financial burdens they are experiencing is due to his mother, Hester, obsession with living beyond her means. No matter how much Paul wins for his mother to earn her love, Hester is still not satisfied and shows less affection towards her family. Paul’s obsession to get back on his rocking-horse and ride till he is lucky gets worse through time and eventually leads to his doom. The story illustrates the rise of consumerism and self-indulgence in the English culture society. Its conceptual structure is criticism on self-indulgence and materialism in a middle-class community by showing their subsequent adverse effects. The story demonstrates disintegration of family, isolation, and exploitation as some of the ramifications of consumerism and materialism (Bağlama 24). It is a reflective critique on the obtuse covetousness, excessive consumerism, and greediness embedded in the modern society. The story is a morality tale that incorporates dramatized actions and symbolism to make commentary on the adverse effects of financial and social pressures in the modern society.
The Rocking Horse Winner follows Paul’s fixation on luck in an attempt to win money for his family by riding his rocking-horse and predicting the winning horses in major races. Hester’s constant complaints about her family and financial problems drives Paul to fixate on riding the horse, the whispering of the house also torments Paul and his siblings about money. Paul’s need to win his mother’s affection and restore happiness in the family compel him to start riding the rocking-horse to a frenzied state to make predictions. He is however unaware that the financial problems stem from her mother’s extravagance and not poverty. Together with his Uncle Oscar, who doubts him at first, they use the predictions to win large sums of money from the race (Lawrence 529-530). Paul covertly shares his winning with his mother by fabricating them as a gift from someone else. Regardless of his attempts the house keeps speaking that there should be more money, this drives him to try more predictions to impress his mother and make the house stop whispering. Paul tries several times to no avail and he gets more desperate. Finally, he rides the rocking-horse with more vigor and manages to predict a win but unfortunately collapses and eventually dies.
The story expresses the negative effects of fixating on luck and money to satisfy the constant materialistic needs of family in a capitalist society. Paul uses his rocking-horse to predict wins through luck, ‘Now take me to where there is luck’ (Lawrence 527). Paul concludes that if he manages to win money for his mother and relieve her of financial burdens, he will earn her love and affection. In a modern political economy, families face a lot of pressure to satisfy the materialistic desires of loved ones to achieve affection and harmony in the household. The story shows the emotional turmoil an individual endures in pursuit of unrequited love, and the compulsion only leads to further alienation and exploitation. Paul loses his innocence through this emotional struggle to win for Hester’s covetous desires. The yearning for her love only drives her mother further away prompting more effort from him to earn her love. Paul figures The Derby is his last opportunity to win for Hester. However, he does not achieve what he desired even on his deathbed. In a modern society, the story expresses the destructive nature of greediness and obsession with wealth due to burdens exerted on by family’s self-interests.
The Rocking-Horse Winner illustrates the rise of consumerism and self-indulgence in a capitalist society and the subsequent destructive effects. Lawrence uses the character of Hester to express the adverse impact of consumerist and materialist culture in society. The social expectations in a bourgeois society drive Hester into impulsive consumerism which translates into inept motherhood. Paul’s mother Hester believes that material possessions and money will give her happiness which she has not achieved thus far. The money Paul wins for her pushes Hester to more self-indulgence and materialism; she prefers to buy more lavish possessions instead of paying off debts. She has a deep desire for approval from others which only makes her greed and avarice grow further, having negative effects on her children. Hester’s commodity fetishism changes her into a detached mother and wife to her family and does not show affection at all. Hester’s association of money and love has made her marriage worthless in her eyes. She isolates her children especially Paul who results to exploiting himself to fulfill the family’s needs. She represents the pointlessness of consumerism and its damaging effects on families and the culture. Hester’s self-indulgence and extravagance lead to the disintegration of relationships in the household.
The story illustrates the societal notions of associating affection with money; it establishes that self-indulgence inhibits expression of affection towards family. Lawrence demonstrates the discordancy between materialism and love in the story through Hester; she is unable of love: It’s made known that she felt like her kids were pushed upon her and she could not love them (Lawrence 525). Hester represents the greediness and acquisitiveness in modern society; she only wishes to acquire riches and approval and has no concern over the family union. The writer expresses the damaging effect extreme desire for status and wealth has on family, through the story he criticizes people’s equation of happiness with fortune. Hester also struggles with expressing affection to her kids and husband due to societal notions to assume the role of a traditional woman. Hester’s vices lead to the disintegration of her family; the emotional negligence of her children leads to the death of Paul. Even during her son’s death, she is cold and distant; she expresses no love or affection to him as her true desires lay elsewhere. Hester’s character is a commentary to the self-indulgent tendencies in the society to the extent of overlooking the most critical aspects of family. The story is reflective of the modern society; it expresses the corrosive nature of a family member’s self-indulgence and materialism.
The story incorporates symbolism to express the concepts of consumerism and materialism in a capitalist society. The whisper of the house represents the people’s impulsive tendencies to keep spending more than they can afford (Bağlama 25). It expresses the iniquities of excessive consumerism and self-indulgence in a modern political economy. Paul’s riding of the wooden rocking-horse to earn money that is never enough is a form of societal exploitation. In the contemporary economy, the hard work of certain individuals is expropriated by family members in the expense of the individual. The narrative in its entirety urges the society to take caution while indulging in consumerism and self-indulgence by illustrating the shortcomings involved with a capitalist setting such as exploitation, isolation, and disintegration of family.
The Rocking-Horse Winner incorporates embellished events and symbolism to express the destructive effects of excessive consumerism and materialism to a family in a modern society. It explores Paul’s compulsion to acquire more wealth for Hester’s materialistic vices to earn a parent’s affection which only leads to his death. Hester’s excessive greed fuels Paul’s obsessions which further has damaging effects on the family. The story criticizes the acquisitive behavior in a capitalist society along with it exploiting, isolating and disintegrating effects on the members of a family. The story expresses the need to foster a genuinely affectionate relationship in a family to attain fulfillment and happiness. It conveys that financial and social pressures families face in a modern setting limits them from achieving true contentment.
Works CitedBağlama, Sercan Hamza. “The Ideological Structure in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”: Evils of Modernism and Consumerism.” Anglisticum Journal (IJLLIS) 2.4 (2013): 24 – 32. Print. 10 October 2017.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Charters, Anna. The Story and Its Writer. Compact 8th. Boston: Bedforsd/St.Martin, 2011. 525-536. Print. 10 October 2017.
The short story The Rocking Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence was first published in 1926, and it’s a story about money, success, and luck. It focuses on Paul, a young boy who rides his rocking horse until a frenzied state of mind and succeeds in predicting the names of horses that win in major races. Paul wants to win money for his mother Hester who is materialistic in the hopes of earning her love. He manages to win large sums of money together with his Uncle Oscar with the help of the rocking horse. Towards the end, while riding his horse, Paul unfortunately collapses and dies after winning a fortune on his last bet. The Rocking Horse Winner has several themes but the most recurring ones are materialism and greed. It is a tragic story about the damaging effects of greed and materialism, the symbolism that happiness and love are destroyed by money. Lawrence demonstrates the lack of love where there is materialism, and that material things and riches cannot attain happiness. Love and contentment have to emanate from within as highlighted by Paul’s kindness and not from materialism as demonstrated by Hester’s greed. Lawrence illustrates that materialism and love are incompatible and cannot coexist in a family, and one has to make a choice whether to express affection to people or admire material possessions.
Lawrence demonstrates the discord of expressing affection to people and the love of money. Paul’s family is unfortunate and unhappy, the parent’s marriage is substandard, and Hester is not fulfilled with her life. Hester is incapable of love: ‘She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them…’ (Lawrence 525). The incapability of loving her children stems from her desire for riches and believing the affection the children crave can be replaced with lavish materials. She is utilized to showcase the deep effects of materialism in a family and that children need affection and love regardless of possessions. The true fulfillment in life is to offer and receive love, but it has to be genuine and not forced quite the opposite to Paul’s attempts. In spite, Paul is a child and does not know any better but make attempts best to his knowledge. Affection cannot be forced from an individual, in this case, Hester whose desires lay somewhere else and can only learn to love by herself. The family regards money as the most important factor because the parents make it as the main priority. Hester is engrossed on materialism because she pursues to maintain a particular lifestyle. The presence of avarice in the family makes it impossible for love to be expressed from the parents to children.
Paul’s rocking horse symbolizes his loneliness and the pursuit of his mother’s affection despite its futility. Paul arrives at a conclusion that if he manages to win money for his mother and relieve her of financial burdens, he will earn her love and affection. Paul uses his rocking horse to envisage wins through luck: ‘Now take me to where there is luck’ (Lawrence 527). He always struggles to reach the trance state which stems from the emotional turmoil caused by her mother’s lack of affection. He loses his innocence through this emotional struggle to win for Hester’s greed. His attempt at affection from Hester is however fruitless despite winning a lot of money for her. The money only pushes Hester to more greed and materialism; she prefers to buy more lavish materials instead of paying off debts. Hester spends impulsively to fulfill her desires whereas Paul constantly hopes for money to attain parental love. The attempts for love pushes her mother away more prompting more effort from him to earn her love. Paul realizes The Derby is his last opportunity to win for Hester and finally get what he always wanted. In spite of the great win, Paul still does not get the love he craved for all his life.
The story showcases the rise of consumerism in the culture condemning the equation of happiness and love with money and luck. Paul’s mother Hester believes that material possessions and money will give her happiness even though it hasn’t so far. She has a deep desire for approval from others which only makes her greed and materialism grow further having effects on her children. The effects translate to the children hearing the house keep whispering, “There must be more money! Oh-h-h! There must be more money!” (Lawrence 528). Hester does not offer love to her children especially Paul who spends his entire time on a rocking horse to achieve his mother’s affection. Paul also says, “I started it for mother. She said she had no luck…so I thought if I was lucky, it might stop the whispering.” (Lawrence 528). Hester’s equation of happiness and love to possessions leaves no place to express true affection towards other people. She is superficial and unable to make an emotional connection with her children whosoever. She appears to be the perfect mother who is devoted to her family, but only she and her children know the fact. Hester’s association of money with love has made her home a loveless household and also her marriage worthless in her eyes.
Hester struggles to feel affection for her husband and children and feels the need to rectify her mistakes even though she is incapable. At the beginning of her union with her husband she “married for love, and the love turned to dust” (Lawrence 525). Hester considers his husband unlucky and does not provide enough this destroys the dynamic of their marriage. The story illustrates that whenever her children are present, she feels her heart go hard with no affection at all (Lawrence 526). Money is the only thing she embraces, she has debts and financial problems, but the solution to this comes at the expense of his child’s life. The children especially Paul feel pressured to solve the problems that he perceives are the reason for Hester’s lack of affection. She is somewhat devastated about her child’s sickness but doesn’t realize that her behavior caused this demise. Hester offers no comfort as her heart is hard from the disconnect she feels for her family, her desires lay elsewhere and cannot be changed even with Paul’s futile attempts. She is cold and distant even at Paul’s deathbed; she expresses no love or affection to him. Paul dies abandoned and isolated by Hester, as her true desire is the money he won for her.
In The Rocking-Horse Winner, Lawrence uses the relationships in the family and their desires to convey the themes of materialism and love and their incompatibility. The constant desire for money and social status in the story affects the relationships in the family. Hester is incapable of showing affection or love to his children and husband due to her desire for money and status. Paul’s attempts to receive affection from his mother through winning money is unsuccessful even during his ailment. Lawrence demonstrates the discord of expressing affection to people and the love of money. The relationships in the story portray that lust for money, material things, and social status destroys happiness and love. Love and materialism cannot exist together as illustrated by the lack of affection from Hester. The collocation of Hester’s greediness with Paul’s kindness highlights the contrast between materialism and affection.