Consider what happens in the narrative of "The Rocking Horse Winner" because of the adults’ desire for money. 1. What theme about materialism is Lawrence communicating to the reader? 2. What...

Consider what happens in the narrative of "The Rocking Horse Winner" because of the adults’ desire for money.

1. What theme about materialism is Lawrence communicating to the reader? 
2. What literary elements does he employ to convey this theme?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Materialism is a false value that can never satisfy the spiritual needs of humans.

At the end of "The Rocking Horse Winner," Paul's mother hears her brother Oscar's voice saying,

"My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner."

Paul's tragic search for love by means of luck emanates from the messages he has received from his mother. "She married for love, and the love turned to dust" because Hester cannot really feel love; further, she even feels the "center of her heart go hard" in the presence of her own children. It is this "hard little place" that Hester strives to satisfy with money since there is no love with which to do so. And it seems as though the very house is haunted as the children "see in each other's eyes" that they hear it whisper:"There must be more money! There must be more money!"

So Paul seeks the answer to having money. When his mother tells Paul that a person is lucky if he has money and that his father is unlucky, Paul, the only male child, feels the burden of becoming lucky in order to satisfy his mother and earn her love as well as silence the house. But no heart and no home can be fulfilled or satisfied with materialism because the heart and the warmth of home are spiritual entities and must be satisfied with that which is spiritual. This is the message that Uncle Oscar implies to his sister as Paul lay dead before her. He has died from lack of love, from the obsession of being lucky in order to acquire money to satisfy his mother. The worship of Materialism is a false god; it will not bring love to anyone's heart.

2. In his story, in order to convey his theme, D.H. Lawrence uses several literary elements. He creates an atmosphere/tone of anxiety through the use of repetition of words and actions. This anxiety becomes almost palpable and is personified near the end of the story as her anxiety "gripped her [Hester's] heart till she could hardly speak." There is also a ghost story setting. For instance, the house seems almost haunted as the children agree that they hear a "secret whisper" throughout the house of "There must be more money." The house is, of course, personified as it seems to speak. Paul's obsessive and repeated rocking on his wooden horse is ritualistic, and his "blue glare from his big, rather close set eyes" is eerie as he will not speak to anyone when he is in "full tilt"; these actions indicate that he is in some type of trance and is perhaps communicating with the occult in order to obtain his winners and have the "luck" to obtain money for his mother.

Rather obviously, the rocking horse acts as a symbol. As a sexual symbol, Paul is mounting his horse, a symbol of maleness for Lawrence, and taking the place of his unlucky father in an Oedipal posture (allusion). He provides the money as his father should do; he seeks to satisfy his mother's need for the only love she has--her love of money. As a symbol of his childhood, Paul remains dependent upon pleasing his mother, rather than finding other outlets for satisfaction in his own life.

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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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