Discord Between Love and Avarice
The short story The Rocking Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence was first published in 1926, and it’s a story about money, success, and luck. It focuses on Paul, a young boy who rides his rocking horse until a frenzied state of mind and succeeds in predicting the names of horses that win in major races. Paul wants to win money for his mother Hester who is materialistic in the hopes of earning her love. He manages to win large sums of money together with his Uncle Oscar with the help of the rocking horse. Towards the end, while riding his horse, Paul unfortunately collapses and dies after winning a fortune on his last bet. The Rocking Horse Winner has several themes but the most recurring ones are materialism and greed. It is a tragic story about the damaging effects of greed and materialism, the symbolism that happiness and love are destroyed by money. Lawrence demonstrates the lack of love where there is materialism, and that material things and riches cannot attain happiness. Love and contentment have to emanate from within as highlighted by Paul’s kindness and not from materialism as demonstrated by Hester’s greed. Lawrence illustrates that materialism and love are incompatible and cannot coexist in a family, and one has to make a choice whether to express affection to people or admire material possessions.
Lawrence demonstrates the discord of expressing affection to people and the love of money. Paul’s family is unfortunate and unhappy, the parent’s marriage is substandard, and Hester is not fulfilled with her life. Hester is incapable of love: ‘She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them…’ (Lawrence 525). The incapability of loving her children stems from her desire for riches and believing the affection the children crave can be replaced with lavish materials. She is utilized to showcase the deep effects of materialism in a family and that children need affection and love regardless of possessions. The true fulfillment in life is to offer and receive love, but it has to be genuine and not forced quite the opposite to Paul’s attempts. In spite, Paul is a child and does not know any better but make attempts best to his knowledge. Affection cannot be forced from an individual, in this case, Hester whose desires lay somewhere else and can only learn to love by herself. The family regards money as the most important factor because the parents make it as the main priority. Hester is engrossed on materialism because she pursues to maintain a particular lifestyle. The presence of avarice in the family makes it impossible for love to be expressed from the parents to children.
Paul’s rocking horse symbolizes his loneliness and the pursuit of his mother’s affection despite its futility. Paul arrives at a conclusion that if he manages to win money for his mother and relieve her of financial burdens, he will earn her love and affection. Paul uses his rocking horse to envisage wins through luck: ‘Now take me to where there is luck’ (Lawrence 527). He always struggles to reach the trance state which stems from the emotional turmoil caused by her mother’s lack of affection. He loses his innocence through this emotional struggle to win for Hester’s greed. His attempt at affection from Hester is however fruitless despite winning a lot of money for her. The money only pushes Hester to more greed and materialism; she prefers to buy more lavish materials instead of paying off debts. Hester spends impulsively to fulfill her desires whereas Paul constantly hopes for money to attain parental love. The attempts for love pushes her mother away more prompting more effort from him to earn her love. Paul realizes The Derby is his last opportunity to win for Hester and finally get what he always wanted. In spite of the great win, Paul still does not get the love he craved for all his life.
The story showcases the rise of consumerism in the culture condemning the equation of happiness and love with money and luck. Paul’s mother Hester believes that material possessions and money will give her happiness even though it hasn’t so far. She has a deep desire for approval from others which only makes her greed and materialism grow further having effects on her children. The effects translate to the children hearing the house keep whispering, “There must be more money! Oh-h-h! There must be more money!” (Lawrence 528). Hester does not offer love to her children especially Paul who spends his entire time on a rocking horse to achieve his mother’s affection. Paul also says, “I started it for mother. She said she had no luck…so I thought if I was lucky, it might stop the whispering.” (Lawrence 528). Hester’s equation of happiness and love to possessions leaves no place to express true affection towards other people. She is superficial and unable to make an emotional connection with her children whosoever. She appears to be the perfect mother who is devoted to her family, but only she and her children know the fact. Hester’s association of money with love has made her home a loveless household and also her marriage worthless in her eyes.
Hester struggles to feel affection for her husband and children and feels the need to rectify her mistakes even though she is incapable. At the beginning of her union with her husband she “married for love, and the love turned to dust” (Lawrence 525). Hester considers his husband unlucky and does not provide enough this destroys the dynamic of their marriage. The story illustrates that whenever her children are present, she feels her heart go hard with no affection at all (Lawrence 526). Money is the only thing she embraces, she has debts and financial problems, but the solution to this comes at the expense of his child’s life. The children especially Paul feel pressured to solve the problems that he perceives are the reason for Hester’s lack of affection. She is somewhat devastated about her child’s sickness but doesn’t realize that her behavior caused this demise. Hester offers no comfort as her heart is hard from the disconnect she feels for her family, her desires lay elsewhere and cannot be changed even with Paul’s futile attempts. She is cold and distant even at Paul’s deathbed; she expresses no love or affection to him. Paul dies abandoned and isolated by Hester, as her true desire is the money he won for her.
In The Rocking-Horse Winner, Lawrence uses the relationships in the family and their desires to convey the themes of materialism and love and their incompatibility. The constant desire for money and social status in the story affects the relationships in the family. Hester is incapable of showing affection or love to his children and husband due to her desire for money and status. Paul’s attempts to receive affection from his mother through winning money is unsuccessful even during his ailment. Lawrence demonstrates the discord of expressing affection to people and the love of money. The relationships in the story portray that lust for money, material things, and social status destroys happiness and love. Love and materialism cannot exist together as illustrated by the lack of affection from Hester. The collocation of Hester’s greediness with Paul’s kindness highlights the contrast between materialism and affection.
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The short story The Rocking Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence was first published in 1926, and it’s a story about money, success, and luck. It focuses on Paul, a […]