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Autor: anton 23 April 2011
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Lawrenceâ€™s Literary Devices
When reading various works of literature, one often overlooks the importance of certain themes, symbols, and styles of writing that emphasize or even create the messages or feelings the author is attempting to convey. These subtle details are essentially the meat and potatoes of any work, and therefore one cannot comprehend the true meaning of the work without fully understanding these literary devices. D.H. Lawrenceâ€™s The Rocking Horse Winner is a short story chock full of literary devices that turns this story from a simple, sad tale of a young boy into a grand dilemma consisting of sex, greed, neglect, and hidden lust.
Sexual tones are expressed throughout the story through symbols, character interactions, and Lawrenceâ€™s word usage. The boyâ€™s rocking horse and the manner in which Lawrence describes the use of this horse can be considered very sexual. â€œThe rocking horse is his â€œmountâ€ which is â€œforcedâ€ onwards in a â€œfurious rideâ€ towards â€œfrenzy.â€ These descriptions are very suggestive of sexual activityâ€ (Themes 2). The first time Lawrence tells of Paul riding his horse, Paulâ€™s sisters are present in the same room. The sistersâ€™ reactions to witnessing Paul riding his horse point towards him doing something inappropriate and sexual, as if he were masturbating. Lawrence writes, â€œWhen the two girls were playing dolls in the nursery, he would sit on his big rocking-horseâ€¦with a frenzy that made the girls peer at him uneasilyâ€¦The little girls dared not speak to himâ€ (Lawrence). The boy is clearly doing something that his sisters will not, and probably could not, associate themselves with. The climactic scene at the end, when Paul dies as a result of riding his horse too hard, strongly relates to masturbation. Even Lawrence himself indirectly relates this scene to masturbation in one of his other works, an essay entitled â€œPornography and Obscenity.â€ Simon Baker speaks of this subject, â€œLikewise, it is impossible to ignore the allusions towards masturbation in Paulâ€™s â€œsecret of secretsâ€ (especially in his death scene) if one recalls Lawrenceâ€™s sentiments in his essay â€œPornography and Obscenityâ€: â€œMasturbation is the one thoroughly secret act of the human beingâ€¦. The body remains, in a sense, a corpse, after the act of self-abuseâ€â€ (Baker 2). The reason why Paul rides the horse is to get the name of the winning horse in the races, a ritual he keeps secret, just as he would masturbation. The sexual ambiance gives this story an interesting, unexpected twist that adds to the total flavor of the messages conveyed by Lawrence.
The style of writing used by D.H. Lawrence in this story suggests that it is meant to be regarded as a legend or fable. This is apparent from the very first words of the story, when Lawrence writes, â€œThere was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luckâ€ (Lawrence). These words are on reminiscent of the traditional way to begin a legend/fable, â€œOnce upon a timeâ€¦.â€ â€œThis is a conscious attempt on the part of the author to use the traditional oral storytelling techniqueâ€ (Themes 2). D.H. Lawrence uses these old-school techniques to convey the messages in his story in a manner that seems universal, and can be absorbed by all. The fable style is also apparent in the story through the characters. One critic speaks of the charactersâ€™ legendary qualities by stating, â€œThe mother is the poor, unsatisfied fairy princess who yearns for happiness; Paul is the gallant knight on horseback who rides to her rescueâ€ (Junkins 1-2), while another says, â€œThis story also combines the supernatural elements of fable, mainly Paulâ€™s ability to â€œknowâ€ the winners just by riding his rocking-horseâ€ (Themes 2). Paulâ€™s quest to make his mother, Hester, happy by giving her money also has the qualities of fables and legends, and Junkins tells us by saying, â€œHe dies as a result of his quest; it is the relentlessly unsatisfied woman-mother which kills him. The ancient myth of the man-devouring woman is re-created in modern termsâ€ (2).
In The Rocking Horse Winner, there are several relations to religion. In the beginning when Paul asks his mother if anybody knows who is lucky, Lawrence writes Hesterâ€™s answer, â€œPerhaps God. But He never tellsâ€ (Lawrence). Also, Paulâ€™s Uncle Oscar says, â€œMy God, Hesterâ€¦But, poor devil, poor devilâ€ (Junkins 1), which shows that the characters are occasionally looking to God and even the devil of the underworld, relating to the Bible. Simon Baker tells of the religious symbolism by saying, â€œBassett perceives Master Paul as a seer, telling Oscar in a â€œsecret, religious voiceâ€ that â€œitâ€™s as if he had it from Heaven,â€ an irony considering Paulâ€™s claim that â€œGod toldâ€ him of his luck. Yet the Marchan framework is that of a hero who bargains with evil powers for forbidden knowledge and wealthâ€¦â€ (2). Paul essentially makes a bargain with God. God would give him the names of the winning horses, but as soon as these names gained him the huge amount of fortune he was after for his mother, he dies.
One aspect of this story that Lawrence included was the Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex is a term coined by Sigmund Freud, and he suggests â€œthat all boys go through a stage where they want to take their fatherâ€™s placeâ€ (Themes 2). Since the father cannot provide enough money for his wife (Paulâ€™s mother) to be happy, Paul decides to attempt to take his fatherâ€™s place of being the source of an ample amount of income for Hester. â€œPaul has an Oedipal urge to replace his failed father in a family where money is takes as the nexus of affectionâ€ (Baker 2). The family considers money the basis for love, therefore Paul is yearning for his motherâ€™s love towards him over his father. Piedmont-Marton points out that Hester makes â€œher feelings very clear to her young son, the mother â€œbitterlyâ€ characterizes her husband as â€œvery unlucky.â€ When she confides in her son that she is dissatisfied with her husband, the mother sets in motion the boys futile quest to please her, to be the man she wants him/her husband to beâ€ (1). Lawrence was a fan of Freud and his studies, and it shows in his writing. The inclusion of aspects of the Oedipus complex in the story allows real-life situations to be revealed in this story.
Clearly, without Lawrence implementing these literary elements, The Rocking Horse Winner would not have stood the test of time, and so it remains a classic tale because of his techniques. He cleverly used literary elements such as symbolism, unique styling, and even references to religion and Freudian theories to strengthen his work and the hidden messages that lie in between the lines. It is these elements that make this story and others like it timeless.
Baker, Simon. Reference Guide to Short Fiction: â€œThe Rocking-Horse Winner: Overviewâ€. Ed.
Noelle Watson. St. James Press, 1994.
Lawrence, D.H. "The Rocking Horse Winner." Literature: The British Tradition. Ed. Lindsay
Patterson, Glenview, Illinois: Prentice, 2003.
Piedmont-Marton, Elisabeth. Short Stories for Students: â€œAn Overview of â€œThe Rocking-Horse
Winnerâ€â€. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997.
Junkins, Donald. â€œThe Rocking-Horse Winner: A Modern Mythâ€. EXPLORING Short Stories. Detroit: Gale, 2003.
Themes and Construction: â€œThe Rocking-Horse Winnerâ€. EXPLORING Short Stories. Detroit:
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