drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence
Start Free Trial

What critical lens is used in 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."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Usually, a critical lens comes from outside a work of literature and is the way an outside reader understands the meaning of a story. It is interesting in this case to apply it to the story's narrator, who is commenting on the family in this passage. The narrator is both...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Usually, a critical lens comes from outside a work of literature and is the way an outside reader understands the meaning of a story. It is interesting in this case to apply it to the story's narrator, who is commenting on the family in this passage. The narrator is both inside the story, part of its words, and yet outside in this instance, as this particular narrator is omniscient and commenting from "above."

This critical lens is psychoanalytic. The narrator's voice is analyzing the unconscious and dysfunctional dynamics that control this family. As is often the case in families, a dominant family member with a problem can infect the whole family. In this case, it is the mother, whose incapacity to love manifests or expresses itself in a need for more and more money as a desperate means to fill her inner emptiness.

Because of the mother's problem, perhaps the result of an early trauma that shut her down emotionally, the whole family feels her sense of lack. The quote itself says,

Yet nobody ever said it aloud. The whisper was everywhere, and therefore no one spoke it.

The "it" referred to is that "there must be more money!" This neediness, this insatiable desire for more than can never be fulfilled, comes, as we noted above, from the mother's damaged psyche. It seems natural to the family, because it has always been a part of their lives, so nobody speaks of it. This refers to another psychological truth of dysfunctional family dynamics: abnormal ways of living and relating can come to seem normative, even if uncomfortable, to children who have never known anything else.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on