Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Essay on The Rockinghorse Winner

The Rockinghorse Winner Essay

The infatuation of the accumulation of money and wealth of an indulgent and self-righteous society is evident between the years of 1900 and 1945. This was the era of the Modern Dramatists, which David Herbert Lawrence belonged to. The values of the middle class society in this time were to emulate the upper class, gaining social status and superficial recognition.

Lawrence despised these values, which society held, being exposed to them as a child witnessing the disparity of his parents trying to achieve this type of social status, and he shows in the Rocking-Horse Winner, his disgust for these values. Lawrence demonstrates that in a patriarchal society, minds are misguided, obsessed with the accumulation of wealth, and as a result of this, the value of family is discarded which will only lead to self-destruction. The opening of the story gives a fairytale like description of a mother who “could not feel love, no, not for anybody” including for her children.

Determined to please his mother, Paul goes on a “mad little journey” to prove his luck and to attain the unattainable, the love of his mother. Elisa from The Wild Swans is also on a quest to achieve the near unattainable, of saving her brothers, demonstrating a strong family value, from the spell cast upon them by their evil stepmother. The Wild Swans was written during the Victorian Era, which was the time when Britain was the richest colonial empire. Like Lawrence, Hans Christian Anderson despised the value of money and wealth, having been brought up in poverty himself, and also found revulsion in the patriarchal system of the church. During the Victorian Era new scientific theories challenged many religious beliefs, which made society reassess their values and lose faith in traditional religious beliefs. Anderson demonstrates, through The Wild Swans, his own Christian ideals that perseverance and a faith in God, with out the interference of the Church, will bring reward.

Family values are shown in both of the texts, but this portrayal is structured in binary opposing ways in each. Anderson’s appreciation for the value of family is shown through Elisa’s quest to find her long lost brothers. Elisa knows that she will find her brothers and “trusted that God would not leave her.” Elisa’s perseverance is a true depiction of Anderson’s value that dedication and a ‘one on one’ relationship with God will bring reward. Anderson portrays through the use of similes that Elisa is never alone, as she will always have nature and God on her side. Even the smallest of creatures, like the glow-worms, “falling to the ground like shooting stars” want to help Elisa on her quest, by lighting up the dark and silent night for her. God lets Elisa know that He is watching over her from above when the “branches above her seemed to be drawn aside like a curtain” to allow her to see “God looking down at her, with angels peeping over His shoulders and out from under His arms.” Elisa shows the qualities of courage and endurance, when she takes on the task of knitting eleven shirts from the flax of nettles. Anderson uses emotive language as “wept bitterly” and “hopelessly sad” to evoke sympathy for Elisa as she accepts an enormous task. Elisa tortures herself with the blistering and burning of her hands and feet from the nettles she must weave as she feels that she “must attempt it and God will help” her, in order to save her family. A diminished value of family connections is portrayed in the story the Rocking-Horse Winner as opposed to the important role that love between family members has in the Wild Swans. Paul’s mother, Hester, feels empty inside because of the lack of wealth and money in her life, and with no wealth, she feels like she has no identity. This emptiness inside is the reason why she cannot love her children with the love, which should be present in every mother, and this is why she lavishes Paul and his sisters with gifts like the “shining modern rocking horse” and a “smart doll’s houses”, as compensation for her lack of lovingness towards them. The hollow toys are symbolic of what is felt inside by the mother and the children; emptiness. Lawrence has written about the family’s state at the beginning of the story with many metaphorical mentions about Hester’s and her children’s eyes and hearts as they are considered to be the location of a persons soul, which straight away informs that the souls of the characters are cold lonely and empty. Paul takes onboard a mission to “compel her attention”, prove to her that he is lucky and with that luck he will satisfy her need for wealth which inturn, will satisfy his need for love from his mother. However this dedication to satisfy his mother’s needs jeopardises his relationship with his sisters as they become afraid of him.

Therefore Paul becomes more and more isolated from the family as he is trying to save it, which shows Lawrence’s belief that an obsession of money and wealth, misleads people into forgetting the true value of family.

Elisa has a pure belief that God will be with her always, no matter what time or where she is. This is a reflection of Anderson’s belief that one doesn’t have to go through the church to be close to God. The bitter character of the Archbishop in the story is a negative reflection of the church in Victorian times. During these times the church was a patriarchal system, with members of the church being looked upon as a majestic figure, treated like royalty, not a person following God’s calling to serve the people, but for self benefit. Elisa is young innocent child who is a good Christian and says her prayers regularly. Anderson used Elisa’s undressing and bathing in a clear pool of water to symbolise the Christian way of baptising, reinforcing Elisa’s noble and everlasting relationship with God, while she was miserable and missing her brothers. It was only when the Archbishop came into Elisa’s life when things started to go wrong for her. The Archbishop’s oppressive nature was able to turn the King, who had fallen in love with Elisa, and the people of the public, who had earlier rejoiced their new queen, against Elisa. This is a reflection of the way in which the members of the church were making the people turn their backs on their belief of God by what the members were preaching. This is an example of the sort of patriarchal system, which Anderson despises. Paul believes that his rocking horse will take him to where he wants to go; to “where the luck is”. Paul’s faith in his rocking horse is as strong as Elisa’s faith in God. Paul’s “mad little journeys” are symbolic of the spiritual path, which he must take to find fulfilment. Both Paul and his partner Basset take their horse races “serious as church” and often talk about them in a “secret, religious voice”.

Paul’s obsession with the winning races is overwhelming and consumes his soul. Whenever Paul begins his “mechanical gallops” his eyes “blaze with a sort of madness” and with an “uncanny cold fire in them”. His eyes are mirroring his soul, consumed with the cold and desire to accumulate wealth in order for his mother to live the life which she wants; conforming to the expectations of the patriarchal society in which they live in. Hester, the mother of Paul, was passionately concerned about the image she portrayed to her friends. She always appeared to be “such a good mother” who “adores her children" and was obsessed with materialistic commodities to prove that she is an important member of society and worthy of the “social position, which they had to keep up.” The misguided value put onto wealth by Hester reflects the materialistic concerns of the twentieth century society, which Lawrence is aware of and feels uneasy about. Behind the front, put up by Hester, the house in which they lived “became haunted by the unspoken phrase There must be more money!” Lawrence uses personification in a curious way to demonstrate how prominent the need for money was if “The big doll, sitting so pink and smirking in her new pram, could hear it quite plainly, and seemed to be smirking all the more self-consciously because of it” To stop the whispering in the house and to satisfy his craving for love from his mother, Paul tries to fill the financial void in her life. After secretly giving his mother money to pay off all debts, he is disappointed that his mother only thought his gift was “quite moderately nice” and the voices in the house “trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy.” After this the recurrent description of Paul’s “mad journeys” intensify, giving more and more insight as the story progresses. These descriptions makes the reader aware of things heard and felt, and the mechanisms of the rocking horse become audible and Paul’s rides can be imagined which makes his madness and isolation from the family evident. “It was a soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful. Something huge, in violent hushed motion.” The patriarchal society which That’s mother wanted to belong to kill her son with the sacrilegious effort he put out to satisfy her insatiable greed.

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