drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence
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"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." Write a fully developed analytical paragraph that highlights the critical subtext of your chosen text. Use literary devices, literary elements, and critical lenses.

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In this selection from "The Rocking-Horse Winner," personification is used to demonstrate the tangible sense of unease and stress in the family home. Paul's mother desperately longs for "more money," even though there is evidence that they live with above-average comforts. Still, the mother tells her children that they are "the poor members of the family," and her dissatisfaction becomes palpable until the very walls of the house seem to radiate her feelings of discontent. These feelings of anxiety are pervasive, becoming the very fabric of their lives as the children play. This selection also uses an example of truism, which is a statement that is so obvious that it wouldn't be worth mentioning except to point out a greater truth:

No one ever says: "We are breathing!"

This is an obvious statement that reinforces the pervasive nature of the personified anxiety in Paul's home. No one mentions it because it is simply the essence of their collective existence.

To further examine this selection, you could use a psychoanalytic critical lens. (See the link at the bottom for more detailed information.) You might want to examine how these "whispers" reflect the mother's unconscious motivations and fears in ways she isn't fully aware of. You might also examine how the "whispers" further characterization in terms of literary archetypes. For examine, the mother, who should present as the caregiver archetype, lacks the nurturing skills necessary to fulfill this role.

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