The Rocking-Horse Winner Historical and Social Context
by D. H. Lawrence

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Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Modern Era

Lawrence was writing during the early part of the twentieth century, and he, like most writers of the day, was significantly influenced by World War I. He had read and loved the novels of nineteenth-century writers George Eliot, author of Silas Marner, and Thomas Hardy, author of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but grew dissatisfied with the predictability of such characters. After the war, many people began to question the old ways of looking at the world. Lawrence joined in the questioning by making his characters less sure of themselves, less bound by the rules of polite society that dominated nineteeth-century fiction.

Lawrence became interested in the psychological motivations for why people do the things they do. Psychology as a science was in its infancy at this time. Sigmund Freud, the "father" of modern psychology, was formulating his theories regarding the unconscious through observing his patients at his practice in Vienna. Lawrence was also convinced that the modern way of life, long hours at cruel jobs for little pay, was dehumanizing. His characters were often failures in relationships who felt alienated in their misery. Furthermore, his writing was frequently embellished with themes about greed, materialism, and degrading work, which were issues of increasing concern to people at the time.

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

Then: The financial circumstances experienced by the family in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" are shared by many upper-class people in the years surrounding World War I. Great emphasis is placed on possessions and the appearance of wealth among the privileged, particularly in London.

Now: In 1996, Princess Diana officially divorces...

(The entire section is 388 words.)