drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence
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Analyze the following quote from “The Rocking-Horse Winner”:  “Yet nobody ever said it aloud. The whisper was everywhere, and therefore no one spoke it. Just as no one ever says: ‘We are breathing!’ in spite of the fact that breath is coming and going all the time.” What literary devices are used in this quotation?

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This quote from the short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” contains various literary devices, including personification, synecdoche, and hyperbole.

First, the characters’ house is personified by its constant whispering. Seemingly alive and supernatural, the claustrophobic dwelling eerily repeats the need for more money; it “came to be filled with the unspoken words.” No single person actually states that the family needs more money; nonetheless, the children hear a disembodied voice that repeats,

There must be more money! There must be more money!

Second, the whisper itself is an example of synecdoche. As part of a larger whole, the whisper is merely a small sign of the overall, ubiquitous tension felt by the family occupying the house. Paul and his siblings hear a whisper that represents their mother’s greedy dissatisfaction with her “unlucky” husband and their lifestyle. Her resentment builds up pressure and increases Paul’s anxiety over the family’s limited finances. The whisper is part of “secret words all over the house.”

Third, this quote uses hyperbole to emphasize the increasing, eventually unbearable tension. The pervasive whisper is “everywhere” and inescapable. Unspoken discomfort permeates the household. Word choice like “nobody” and the repeated “no one” stresses that no character dares admits the problem out loud. Yet the tension is omnipresent; it’s as obvious and incessant as the act of breathing “all the time.” Breath itself is personified as an active agent unceasingly “coming and going.”

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