Compare and Contrast on the Short Story “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “The Destructors”

Table of Content

A compare and contrast essay will be written on two short stories: “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence and “The Destructors” by Graham Greene.

Introduction and Short Summary of Stories.

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The Rocking Horse Winner is a short story by D.H. Lawrence, first published in Harper’s Bazaar in July 1926. It was later included in the author’s first volume of collected short stories (Kearney, 1998). The story follows Young Master Paul and his ability to predict horse racing winners with the help of Basset, a household helper. Paul hopes to use his winnings to ease his family’s financial troubles and silence the constant whispers of more money” that fill their home (Lawrence, 1926).

On the other hand, The Destructors by Graham Greene was initially published as a two-part series in Picture Post on July 24 and 31, 1954. It was later included in Twenty-One Stories, a collection of Greene’s short stories (Donaghy, 1983). The story centers around a group of children known as the Wormsley Common Gang and their leader Blackie. When new member Trevor suggests they destroy the house belonging to Mr. Thomas (also known as Old Misery), which survived bombing during The Blitz, Blackie’s plan for free rides is overruled by Trevor’s desire for notoriety (Greene, 1954).

Analysis: Commonalities in narrative, style, and characterization.

There is a commonality in the narrative structure of both stories. They use the usual straight storytelling technique and do not rely heavily on foreshadowing, backstories, or flashbacks. However, there are a few historical” commentaries on the house of “Old Misery”. The stories follow an expository-conflict-climax-resolution structure in a straightforward manner.

The Rocking Horse Winner begins with an exposition of the general backdrop of the story and then focuses on Paul. Similarly, The Destructors builds up from the general description of the gang to zero-in on Blackie. This is immediately followed by conflict – in The Rocking Horse Winner it’s the family’s financial woes and in The Destructors it’s Blackie’s leadership challenge.

Although these are bigger conflicts, they are quickly followed by lesser conflicts such as Paul’s intense desire to know who will win in the next horse race and his mother’s desire for more money after receiving her ‘birthday gift’. Similarly, The Destructors’ bigger conflict is compounded with matters such as actual destruction assignments within the group and dwindling attendance of gang members along with Mr. Thomas’ coming home early.

The conflicts are resolved by one big revealing moment – naming ‘Malabar’ as the next winner and successfully carrying out their plan by Wormsley Common Gang. Both stories conclude with Paul’s death and Old Misery’s house being destroyed completely.

The most apparent commonality between the two stories lies in their protagonists or main characters. In The Rocking Horse Winner,” the main character is the young boy, Master Paul. In “The Destructor,” it is the group leader Blackie. Both are young boys who have certain issues and problems that need to be resolved, and both are instrumental to the story’s unfolding.

Both main characters are imbued with strong traits and characteristics that are geared towards accomplishing their goals: discovering race winners and helping out his mother for Paul in “The Rocking Horse Winner” and regaining leadership and successfully carrying out a plan by Blackie and Trevor in “The Destructors.” These characters make for gripping and entertaining stories that propel the narratives further while maintaining readers’ grasp of interest to see the story through its conclusion.

Strong traits of each character contribute to making these tales compelling reads.

Analysis: Contrasts in Themes, Plot, and Purpose

The stories differ in theme. While both stories have a common theme of group dynamics, The Rocking Horse Winner is set and discusses familial dynamics. It could be argued that the gang in The Destructors also exhibits pseudo-familial dynamics. However, the text reveals that the kids have a family outside of the gang.

As some of them needed to do familial duties such as going to church and going home for mealtimes, it can be safely said that while The Rocking Horse Winner” shows family dysfunction within this structure, “The Destructors” shows us a different set-up: that of a clique or gang. There is also a different approach in the story regarding the treatment of other characters, especially towards its view on ‘grown up’ characters.

In “The Rocking Horse Winner,” with the exception of the mother and father, the grown-ups Basset and Uncle Oscar were treated as sympathetic to the goals of the child character and can be considered ‘helpful’ to Paul. In “The Destructors,” however, most of the grown-up characters are considered those whose convictions run contrary to those of children. At best, they are apathetic or need convincing with regards to the validity of gangs’ existence – for example – compared to older gangs and legitimate groups with bigger and more notorious claims to fame.

While “The Rocking Horse Winner” zoomed in on familial and household troubles with finances and familial roles, “The Destructor” tackled and juxtaposed characters into a larger space in society’s socio-economic spectrum. The effects of events in “The Rocking Horse Winner” had direct impacts on families involved while kids in “The Destructors” had far-reaching impacts on communities and society as a whole.

Finally, there is a difference in purpose for both stories. At the very least, it can be said that the effect of The Rocking Horse Winner” is to show the dangers of vanity, greed for money and materialism. It also portrays the effects of absent parents. On the other hand, “The Destructors” shows the effects of lawlessness in youth and apparent neglect by people.

There are things that should have been considered as living legacies and testaments, such as the house of Old Misery. It has stood the test of time and war.


Both stories are interesting, arresting, and very entertaining. They are examples of sterling literary performances and great narratives. A deeper study and reading of both stories, which would include a study on the timelines and other historical aspects surrounding the stories, would greatly enrich the reader’s appreciation of the stories. They are excellent literary gems and highly recommendable reads.

Works Cited

Trilling, Diana, edited The Portable D.H. Lawrence” in New York.

The Viking Press, 1959.

Rabin, Eric S. (ed.). Stories: An Anthology and an Introduction. New York.

HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995.

Donaghy, Henry J. wrote Graham Greene: An Introduction to His Writings.

Rodopi, 1983.

Kearney, Martin F. has compiled a collection of major short stories by D.H. Lawrence.

Taylor & Francis, 1998.

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Compare and Contrast on the Short Story “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “The Destructors”. (2016, Sep 06). Retrieved from

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