Materialism in the Rocking Horse

Topics: The Rocking-Horse Winner, D. H. Lawrence, Short story Pages: 5 (1872 words) Published: January 10, 2013
Materialistic Characters Cause Death
The Modern Age of British Literature was in some ways a rebellion against the Victorian ideals of extravagance, a perspective brought on by the harsh reality of World War I. The scarcity of resources combined with stark images of the war influenced writers to condemn the aristocracy for their excessive self-indulgence. In DH Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” his hatred for the English people’s materialism is conveyed through the death of an innocent child. Without a doubt, DH Lawrence views England as a money-dominated society. In fact Koban states, “Lawrence hated money and warping of modern man that scrambling for money caused. But he knew that no middle-class marriage could be successful without it. Money on the other hand must be kept in perspective and not romanticized into a substitute for love, as it is in ‘The Rocking Horse Winner’”(391). The parents’ delusion about the value of money over love ultimately destroys the family and calls attention to the modern world’s lack of values (Thornton 77). The house in this story symbolizes an obsession with money. It whispers the family secret, “There must be more money” because the parents are accustomed to having wealth, yet they are unable to produce it. They live beyond their means, and the walls of the mysterious house whisper this dark secret. The children hear it and know it, but do not speak of it. The parents feel it and know it, but do not speak of it. The house is symbolic of the insatiable lust for more and sets the stage for Paul’s fatal quest toward an unreachable goal. The house serves as a visual to reflect the materialism of its inhabitants. Hester, Paul’s mother, is consumed by a desire to have an unsustainable lifestyle. Lawrence describes her as a woman “who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust,” so the families’ finances are “not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up” (1). The mother’s focus on money damages all of her relationships, especially with her children. Though others perceive her as a good mother, “she herself knew that at the center of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody” (Lawrence 1). Her children are aware of it as well because, “they read it in each other’s eyes” (Lawrence 1). Hester realizes her children are growing up, but their maturity means that they will become an additional financial burden because they must attend the “right” schools. When she sees them, Hester hears, “There must be more money. There must be more money” (1). She is the most materialistic out of all of Lawrence’s characters, yet she is unable to produce any income on her own. Her efforts are a complete failure, yet she must keep up appearances. She illustrates how personal greed destroys a family. The male characters in this story are no better. Lawrence describes the father as one, “who was always very handsome and expensive in his tastes” (1). Like Hester, he is also unable to produce anything, or make any contribution to the family. Koban focuses on the father meaninglessness saying, “The father in the story has no name, one of many indications that he is a complete failure as a husband and a provider. His inabilities are highlighted by the social position the family tries unsuccessfully to maintain” (382). He is also seen as greedy, yet he lacks the ability to accumulate resources because, “Though he had good prospects these prospects never materialized. There was always a grinding sense of the shortage of money” (Lawrence 1). The wealthy uncle, Oscar Cresswell, only shows interest in young Paul when he learns Paul has an interest in racing and is frequently able to pick a winner. He uses Paul as a means to an end. When Paul dies, the uncle’s response to Hester is, “My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad” (Lawrence 2). Oscar’s...

Cited: Goldberg, Michael. “Lawrence 's 'The Rocking-Horse Winner”: A Dickensian Fable." Modern
Fiction Studies 15 (1969): 525-536.
Koban, Charles. "Allegory And The Death Of The Heart In 'The Rocking-Horse Winner '."
Studies In Short Fiction 15.4 (1978): 391
Lawrence, Robert G. “Further Notes on D.H. Lawrence 's Rocking Horse." College English 24
(1963): 324.
Prentice-Hall, 1963. Pp. 117-26. 1958
Thornton, Weldon, and Harold Bloom
"Supernatural." Bloom 's Major Short Story Writers: D.H. Lawrence (2001): 108-110.
Literary Reference Center
Winner. Ed. Dominick P. Consolo. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1969. Pp. 95-106.
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