Wait. The title of this post is "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence, is it not. Yes, it is.
Most of my time as of late has been committed to keeping up with my Literature Students. The school I teach for adopted the 11th Ed. of Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing edited by X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. I was happy teaching out of the 10th Ed. Having to convert to the 11th Ed., I had to let go of several stories and poems that were in the 10th and not included in the 11th Ed. - a good lesson in popularity I suppose. The new edition of Literature has pushed me to seek out new loves with in its pages, and one such new love is "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence.
"The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence is a cautionary fable worth revisiting in the new-economy. I wonder how many homes are haunted by the whisper, "There must be more money! There must be more money!" (p. 560). I also wonder how many people associate money with luck as does Paul's mother:
"Oh!" said the boy. "Then what is luck, mother?"
"It's what causes you to have money. If you are lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money." (p. 560)It is easier to blame something outside of one's self than it is to accept blame, especially when it come to personal finances. It is so very easy to blame luck or fate. Not so easy is it to blame one's lifestyle, one's choices.
Paul's mother blames luck for her household's finances. However, Lawrence's narrator shows us that she is extravagant in every measure of the word, and doesn't know how to live within her family's means - to budget. "The mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up" (p. 559). Social Position - how much is done to keep up good standing among social peers. The mother's need keep her social position is the infection that causes the house to whisper feverishly, "There must be more money!"
The house's fever dream soon infects Paul, the house's oldest child. Paul one afternoon told his mother that God had told him that he was lucky (p. 561). Which in context of their previous discussion of luck, surely meant that God had told Paul that he would have money. However, Paul made use of a special rocking-horse, one with no name (p. 567). Paul would ride this rocking-horse and command, "Now, take me to where there is luck! Now take me!" (p. 561). Surprisingly, - enter magical realism - the horse would reveal its name; the name - different each ride - was the name of the winning horse at the local Derby (horse race). However, no matter how lucky Paul's rides were, the house's fever dreams only worsened: "The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening" (p. 566).
The infection - "There must be more money!" - soon (and I give away the ending here) takes it tole on Paul. Paul dies riding the rocking-horse, trying to find the next winner to continue his luck to quell the fevered voices (p. 569).
I love the "The Rocking-Horse Winner" fable. It is one that I need to keep close. To attempt to live beyond one's means is risk health and sanity. It also seems that no amount of luck or money can keep the voices at bay. If there is more money, I'll find a way to increase my lifestyle - not healthy behavior. It is better to save and stay ahead, pay as I go rather than fall short - a lesson I learned from very frugal Nebraska parents. So why is it that I feel so bad - like a failure - that for the first time in five or six years that I've had to carry a balance on a credit card. I know that I'll have it paid off by the end of February or March. Expenses just got away from me in December. And I know that my expenses have nothing to do with luck or fate but discipline. Still, it is too easy to blame them, but very unproductive.
Anyway, I also just watched a the movie based on the story. It was on Net Flicks. One of my students told me about the film, which he'd seen when he was a boy. The story is better, but the movie was very good and true the to story. Perhaps, I'll add the movie to my collection for future classes.
Okay. Now back to the novel writing!
Lawrence, D. H. "The Rocking-Horse Winner." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. Print. 559 - 569
The Rocking-Horse Winner. Dir. Anthony Pelissier. Two Cities Films, 1949