In “The Rocking-Horse Winner” we are introduced to a woman who author D. H Lawrence states, “was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. ” When I dive into the psychology behind that statement, I come up with a thought that this beginning draws similarities to Lawrence’s own upbringing with his coal miner father and schoolteacher mother.
Similarly the mother in “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is disenchanted with her marriage and the way her life has turned out. In Lawrence’s own childhood he had parents who were suspected of treason and very status minded. (559) When I look at the relationship in the opening of the story between mother and children it is one of feeling burdened and having been ill prepared for child rearing and mother hood. This family seems completely motivated and driven by social status and superficial impressions. It seems to me that the children were brought into the world not by want or out of love but by obligation and social standards.
What was a woman back then who did not raise a family and keep a home? In my thesis paper I will dive deeper into Paul’s strained relationship with his mother and how it can be attributed in part to his observation of the financial struggles and hardships they have faced and how it ultimately is his undoing. I will also reflect on personal experience and call upon excerpts from other works and research papers and journals to strengthen my points. We are told about the lifestyle they strive for and the sacrifices that have been made. In particular the gifts at Christmas stood out to me as something many families struggle with.
I know in recent years my family has scaled back on extravagant gifts and outings to save money. In some households gifts are a source of pride and boasting. During the conversation between Paul and his mother when Paul is pressing for information on why things are how they are, she comes out and says, “ Well I suppose it’s because your father has no luck,”(560) she seems almost reluctant and hesitant. We are introduced to the notion that Paul is vastly aware of the financial turmoil and issues his family is having. He equates luck to money, which on one hand his other dismisses and states is not true, but throughout the story that is a significant theme. Money equates Luck. She very clearly resents her husband for his lack of financial success and this becomes apparent and detrimental to Paul’s development. In a study done by Xiao Zhang* of The Department of Early Childhood Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, SAR, China, 407 children ages 3 to 5 and their parents were studied and examined to determine the effects of socioeconomic status and family income on the mother child and father child relationships.
In the first study they reference done by Bakermans-Kranenburg, VanIJzendoorn and Kroonenberg (2004) it was found that family income had a positive prediction of maternal sensitivity and attachment security in mother-toddler relationships and development. I find this interesting and can directly correlate this study to Paul and his mother’s strained relationship. As I referenced earlier it is said that the mother never really bonded or formed that maternal relationship with her children. There is not a whole lot of love in that household. A child can easily pick up on coldness or being brushed aside as these children were.
There is evidence in her discussion with Paul about money and luck, and of her trying to evade and rush the conversation. She seems bothered by more than interested in her children. In his journal Mr. Zhang cites the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment known as HOME‘s finding that family income significantly predicted parental investments, which in turn predicted children’s cognitive development at ages 3-5 years. They found that children from higher income families and households were advanced over their peers in both reading and cognitive reasoning skills.
When we start to see Paul’s irrational and erratic behavior, specifically rocking violently back and forth on a childhood toy at what I assumed was teenage age, one has to question his cognitive and rationalizing skills. He seems to be out of touch with reality and almost entranced by this rocking horse and its fantasy. The rocking horse in fact was one of those extravagant gifts given to Paul and his sisters at Christmas. It’s ironic to me that this gift ultimately plays a large part in Paul’s unraveling and undoing.
In Daniel P. Watkins journal entitled “Labor and Religion in D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking- Horse Winner,” ” he references the piece of the story where Paul’s mother has begun to take and utilize the money he has been making. Unbeknownst as to where it actually came from she simply accepts and inquires as to more and more money coming in. It is not utilized to better their situation but to again keep with appearances and advance social standing and status. “There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father’s school, in the following autumn. There were flowers in the winter, and a blossoming of the luxury Paul’s mother had been used to.
And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy; “There must be more money! ” “ (560) To me this represents once again how status and appearance driven this family truly is. Yes portions were used to send Paul to a legacy school but it was done to look better not for honorable and pertinent reasons. I have a hard time respecting decisions like that or people who use their money and means in a showy manor.
I was raised in a mid to upper middle class household and my parents while we certainly had nice things were never showy or status driven. We didn’t live in the biggest house but what we did have were things that were of value to us. Instead of going out and buying the top of line Mercedes simply because they could, my parents chose to buy Audis that weren’t as status focused but were of quality and practicality. We took nice vacations and bills were paid. Things were done not out of competition with friends or neighbors but instead for enjoyment and cultural diversity and education.
I can honestly say I value the way my parents raised me. Sure I had many things that others didn’t but I also knew the value of a dollar and had to work for what I wanted. I had my first job at 13 bussing tables at a local pizzeria. My parents gave me my first car, an Audi from the year I was born, which happened to be my mother’s old car. I hated it then of course, I wanted to have a flashy and fancy car like many of my friends, and I certainly made that known to my parents. Reflecting back now I couldn’t thank my parents enough. I had a safe, reliable and dependable means of transportation.
I was afforded many luxuries growing up that were the result of hard work and determination. Financial upbringing certainly affected my relationship with my parents. I’m sure if I had grown up in a household with serious financial struggles it would have made me a very different person. In recent years due to various circumstances, including the economy, my father’s health and other factors my parents have had to seriously scale back and are in fact struggling financially. My mother was downsized her newspaper job four plus years ago and it has taken our family from a two-income home to one.
My father has serious health issues and has been in and out of the hospital losing valuable time with his clients and practice. I have gone through changes and life adjustments going from a successful and lucrative career in Marketing and Corporate Sales on Wall Street to returning to school to start over in the medical field. I’ve had my fair share of medical issues as well and money truly does make the world go around. I look at my family now and see the effect that our financial issues are having on our relationships with one another.
We do argue and fight from time to time and the majority of those arguments and disagreements are centered on finances. It is a lot for anyone to go through but I can only assume that the psychological and emotional effects it would have on a young child or adolescent would be even more significant. Growing up in that environment surely would make anyone a little crazy and strain relationships. I have my moments of wanting to revert back to my childhood stages and just curl up in a corner somewhere and shut everything out but I didn’t grow up in that environment so I can’t totally relate.
In researching D.H Lawrence and his childhood I came across similarities between his upbringing and relationship with his mother and that in “The Rocking-Horse Winner. ” It is noted that Lawrence’s relationship with his mother was one tainted by control yet still loving. In the story Paul has an urge to please his mother and help to settle family debts. Ambition and drive seem to be common themes and recurrences in both the story and Lawrence’s childhood. It’s interesting to me and even when I had read the story for the first time I had thought there were some similarities and loosely autobiographical elements at play.
Ultimately at the end of the story we see Paul’s mother’s maternal side kick in and present itself. It is often said that a mother knows when her child is in serious pain or distress. Much like the bond between twins when one is in pain, the other may feel it or if one of the twins should die, the other feels a stronger sense of loss and despair. When Paul’s mother is out with her husband she begins to feel a sudden panic as evident in the following passage, “ Two nights before the Derby, she was at a big party in town, when one of her rushes of anxiety about her boy, her first born, gripped her heart till she ould hardly speak. She fought with the feeling, might and main, for she believed in common sense.
But it was too strong. She had to leave the dance and go downstairs to telephone to the country. The children’s nursery-governess was terribly surprised and startled at being rung up in the night. ” (567) Upon returning home she rushes up to her son’s room and stands outside the door hearing a familiar noise that sends her into another spell of anxiety. She opens the door only to find her son furiously rocking back and forth on his child hood door obviously in a state of mental incapacity.
In the end the passage that stands out to me the most in the story is “ Malabar! Malabar! Did I say Malabar, mother? Did I say Malabar? Do you think I’m lucky, mother? I knew Malabar, didn’t I? Over eighty thousand pounds! I call that lucky, don’t you mother? Over eighty thousand pounds! I knew, didn’t I know I knew? Malabar came in all right. If I ride my horse till I’m sure, then I tell you Bassett, you can go as high as you like. Did you go for all you were worth, Bassett? ” “ I never told you, mother, that if I can ride my horse, and get there, then I’m absolutely sure-oh, absolutely!
Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky! ” (569) It all comes back to my earlier point where I equated money with luck. The strain of his family’s financial turmoil and struggles ultimately were Paul’s downfall. He dies at the end leaving his family “eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. ” (569)
- Davies, Rosemary Reeves. “‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ Again: A Correction. ” Studies In Short Fiction 18. 3 (1981): 320. Literary Reference Center. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
- Kennedy, X. J and Gioia, Dana “Literature, An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing” Eleventh Addition 2010, 2007, and 2005 Koban, Charles.
- “Allegory And The Death Of The Heart In ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’. ” Studies In Short Fiction 15. 4 (1978): 391.
- Literary Reference Center. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. Zhang, Xiao. “The Effects Of Parental Education And Family Income On Mother-Child Relationships, Father-Child Relationships, And Family Environments In The People’s Republic Of China.
- ” Family Process 51. 4 (2012): 483-497. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.