Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rocking Horse Winner Research Paper

The Rocking Horse Winner Research Paper

Symbolic themes are commonplace in literary art. Whether used directly or indirectly by the author, these themes have been analyzed by several prominent critics, all having many different ideas about what lies beneath the literal wording of the story. In D.H Lawrence’s "The Rocking Horse Winner", many symbolic ideas are conveyed throughout the story. Every character has unique characteristics which portray different symbolic themes and ideas. Now, many different symbolic layers can be seen in “The Rocking Horse Winner”.

The first of many themes in the story is money. For example, we read about the husband in “The Rocking Horse Winner:”


“… as for her husband , we cannot even guess what he is; he gives too few clues. Failing to supply the luxuries he and his wife demand, he has withdrawn, ceased to exist. The one thing he could always give- himself, the person he is-seems part of a discarded currency”. “Withdrawing, they have denied their own needs…”.(Snodgrass 206)

Paul’s father couldn’t afford the social life that they tried to accommodate. Not supplying the mother with all of her materialistic needs, the mother has become cold and bitter. These characteristics lead to Paul’s need to please his mother and give her this “luck”. Money becomes this replacement for luck and Paul must satisfy this need. The money in this story is used as if it was affection, but it is also taken literally and used in its greed driven state. Paul’s confusion of the meaning of the word luck, leads him on a journey for money which takes his life: “…it is Paul’s attempt to bring an external into his control by knowledge which destroys him. It is a failure of definition.”(Snodgrass 206) The phrase, "there must be more money," was mentioned in the story over ten times. The phrase symbolizes the so-called need the family has for money. In the beginning of the story the phrase was being heard by the children, and they knew that they heard it but none of them said anything about it. We can also conclude that the phrase also compelled Paul into the act he was doing to make all the money. We notice from the story that the phrase grows louder when Paul's mother received the five thousand pounds that was given to her by him, even though she did not know the money was from Paul. Even though he had given the mother money, the voices in the house never ceased. As if thirsting for more money the phrase grows louder because Paul's mother has spent all the money to satisfy her expensive taste.

The Rocking Horse Winner also contains discreet sexual undertones. Paul’s vigorous riding of the horse makes a sexual suggestion. The fact that he is alone when he rides adds to the theory that he obtains the winning horse’s identity when climaxing from masturbation: “Instead of riding his own horse, the symbol of male sexual power, he rides a rocking horse, an activity which, in it’s frenzy and isolation, suggests masturbation rather than fulfillment with a partner.”(Kaplan 1972). Many even say that Paul’s own death is caused by this continuous secret (masturbation) and inevitably leaves him dead after this so-called act of self abuse. Paul’s “secret of secrets” is a stressor that he can no longer handle and his body succumbs to it’s wrath: (…The body remains, in a sense, a corpse, after the act of self abuse.”(Baker 874) Paul’s mother had even fallen out of love for her husband due to sexual reasons:

“…rhyming the verb thrust is shrewdly chosen and placed; knowing Lawrence, we may well guess that Hester’s dissatisfaction is, at least in large part sexual. We needn’t say that the sexual factor is the sole or even primary cause of her frigidity, but it is usually a major index of it and becomes casual.”

Many religious undertones can be found in the story. Although more difficult to interpret they do exist altogether. The fact that Basset tells Paul that the voices in his head come from heaven leads the reader to conclude that some God has given this knowledge to Master Paul and his payment in return was his early demise: ”…the Marchen framework is that of a hero who bargains with the evil powers for forbidden knowledge and health.”(Baker) This idea reverberates the well known plot of many mythical stories whereas the hero or protagonist trades or bargains for knowledge or wealth and always loses in the end. The character Basset even sees Paul as having supernatural powers of some sort and speaks to him in “…an explicitly worshipful tone toward him.”(Snodgrass207) Paul himself even seems to take on an evil like characteristic. It’s like he is sort of trading his life for monetary value as if he is a devil of some sort or “…a poor devil.”(Snodgrass207)

W.D. Lawrence shows money as a replacement for love in “The Rocking Horse Winner.” The author promotes a strong sense of money creating a sense of happiness for the mother “…that happiness must come from the outside, rather than from within.”(Kaplan 1972) This is evident in the first few paragraphs of the story. The mother obviously spoils her children to try and express some hints of love: “The mother, whose heart is too hardened to love her children, tries to compensate them with presents and solicitousness, but the mother and children know the truth…”(Kaplan1972) The only real replacement that could truly satisfy her children would have been her pure love, of which she believed material possessions were worthy. The mothers’ love had even “turned to dust” because of her stresses over money.

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