Are there any Jungian archetypes (anima/animus, persona, shadow) in the characters of "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence is full of both obvious tension and undercurrents of psychological tension. This is a story which has been analyzed from a Freudian point of view, among others, and it is evident that the archetypes you mention can certainly can be found, as well.

One of the primary conflicts in the story is the relationship between Paul and his mother. While she continually claims to be "unlucky," we know that she has created her own bad luck. Since she starts with everything good but still has no luck, obviously she is the problem. Paul does everything he can to make that right; however, nothing is enough, not even giving up his life. 

Jung's theory of the anima is the "feminine image in the male psyche," and the animus is the opposite.

The anima/animus represents the "true self" rather than the image we present to others....

If we look at Hester, she is not anything a mother should be. She is cold and stony, not nurturing. Though everyone remarks about what a great mother she is, she knows differently.

Only she herself knew that at the centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody. Everybody else said of her: "She is such a good mother. She adores her children." Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes. 

This is a consistent theme in the story, and her animus is indicated in her inability to nurturing and her lack of motherly instincts. She is neither a mother to her children nor a wife to her husband. 

Paul, on the other hand, has an incredible nurturing instinct. He is not the only one in the house who hears the constant demand for "more money!" but he is the only one who makes a serious effort to change things in order to make everyone--especially his mother--happy. This nurturing instinct is his anima, and it is what compels him to pursue what will most meet the needs of his house and his mother--money. He wants to please his mother more than anything (which is of course fodder for the Freudian analyses), and he does so sacrificially.

Often male characters demonstrate some female characteristics and vice versa; however, in this story, the roles have been reversed in nearly every way. This anima and animus create what Jung called the syzygy, a representation of completeness and wholeness which is only possible when the male/female roles are so completely reversed. 

The persona, or mask, is represented in Hester. As indicated earlier, she seems to be the model mother; in fact, she plays the role so well that her friends remark about her superior mothering abilities. It is clear, however, that what they see is an act. 

Perhaps a case could be made that Paul also wears a mask. While he seems to be a devoted young son, he is also rather an astute, frenetic. and beyond-his-years businessman. Grown men are persuaded to risk great things because of this persona, and his mother does not suspect that he is the one behind the gift of money because he does not allow her to see it. 

The shadow is all the repressed desires, instincts, and flaws that comprise the darkest side of the self. This manifests in many ways here. Money may be Hester's shadow, the thing she insatiably craves and covets. The rocking horse is clearly Paul's shadow in this story. Everything he wants and desires but cannot express is eventually made manifest in his frantic, feverish rides and his eyes "blazing with a sort of madness." 

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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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