Compare & Contrast The Rocking Horse Winner and The Destructors

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Compare & Contrast The Rocking Horse Winner and The Destructors


In D.H. Lawerence's short story, “The Rocking Horse Winner”, and Grahm Greene's “The Destructors, there are many truths to consider.  Although these two stories are considerably different, the message is the same.  Whether in a life-like story, such as “The Destructors”, or a fantacy, like “The Rocking Horse Winner”, the seeds of materialism are planted and nourished in lives of the characters.  The aspects of materialism in these two stories develop desired conclusions by its characters.  In order to understand the similar message of Greene short story “The Destructors” and Lawerence's “The Rocking Horse Winner”, one must scrutinize the various aspects of each story. 

When comparing the themes of each story, surprising similarities arise.  First, both are developed around the lives of children.  In “The Destructors” a group of boys called the Wormsley Gang have the same view of the world around them.  They have grown up together and share stories about the bombs that destroyed their town.  They also challenge each other to accomplish various tasks.   The house that the boys ultimately destroy represents the greediness of Mr. Thomas, an architect who owns the tattered home.  The Wormsley Gang called him ‘Old Misery’.  In the Rocking Horse Winner”, the story’s plot is thickend by a a young boys obsessive desire to “become lucky”.  This young boy, Paul, believes that his house is continually whispering, “…there must be more money…there must be more money”.  Paul is able to relate the self-proclaimed dissatificatoin of his mothers life with the odd mood of his house.  Paul knows that although his mother appears to have everything together on the outside, she does not love him on the inside.  Paul believes that he can please his mother if he is able to find a way to give her more money.  In both stories, the houses were very symbolic. 

When comparing the emotions and feelings of “The Destuctors” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”, one will discover how their characteristics affect the plot. In “The Destructors”, Trevor, who is the more natural leader of the Wormsley Gang, discovers his own anger upon visiting the home of Mr. Thomas.  Trevor then fuels the already burning curiosities of the gang, by challenging them to do something about it.  In “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Paul’s mother is also angry.  She feels the life she desperately desires, is not being supported with her husbands income.

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  She equates luck with on-going wealth.   She told Paul that she was lucky before she got married.  She blames the despair of her life, home, marriage, and social status solely on her husband.

In “The Rocking Horse Story”, Paul loves his mother dearly.  Despite her obvious selfishness and denial, Paul literally dedicates his life to fulfilling her greedy expectations.  Lawernce depicts this love first of all by the innocent questions Paul feels he can ask his mother.  Secondly, Paul’s concern throughout the story was to make more money for his mother by finding a way to become lucky.  Pauls mother equated wealth with luck and nothing else. At no point did Paul pursue the same ambitions of his mother.  He was always more interested in ‘quieting the voices’ of his house. Throughout “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Paul’s behavior defined the love for his mother. 

In “The Destructors”, everyone portrayed their own greedy agendas.  The boys portray their greed, although not physically materialistic, by destroying an old mans home.  Their greed was caused by materialism, much like Paul’s in “The Rocking Horse Winner”.  The selfish behavior of the boys in the Wormsley Gang was due to the materialistic values of ‘Old Misery’.  Mr. Thomas carried his share of greediness as well.  Although he was a professional architect, with many resources and money to take care of his home……..he didn’t.  Greene gives evidence of Mr. Thomas’ materialisitic values by showing him stuffing a mattress full of money instead of fixing his toilet.

The setting of each story is vital to their themes.   Both stories use the homes to symbolize the demise of the plot.  Lawerence concludes “The Rocking Horse Winner”, with Pauls mother finding him, in his room, desperately riding his rocking horse at 1:00 in the morning.  This  physical and psychotic drive of Paul to find a winner, by riding his toy horse causes him to die in his own home.  Greene concludes  “The Destructors”,  with Mr. Thomas’ home being  completely destroyed when his driver pulls it down with the car.  In “The Rocking Horse Winner”, the mood is unsettling and somber.  Every character feels the anxiety of the homes atmosphere.  The discontent of Paul’s mother created the spirit of their home.  Not only is the home of Mr. Thomas the setting for  “The Destructors”, but also the location of the home itself.  The bombs of World War II caused many homes to be destroyed in their neighborhood, but Mr. Thomas’ home stood between that destruction.

But what purpose are the authors of these two stories attempting to prove?  The purpose of both stories is to portray how materialism affects those around us.  In both stories, Greene and Lawerence attempt to prove this purpose by depicting the irrational behavior of their characters.  The boys in “The Destructors” act irrational by destroying a home for no reason other than maybe because ‘its there’ or ‘they just want to’.  In “The Rocking Horse Winner” Paul takes a journey on his toy horse in search of ‘luck’.  He relentlessly rocks forward and backward but in reality goes no where.  Lawerence is illustrating the never ending journey of those who seek materialistic satisfaction.  While it was Paul’s close relationship with his mother that drove him to act irrationally, the boys in the Wormsley Gang, were still affected by the greed of Mr. Thomas and didn’t have a close relationship.

The writing styles of Greene and Lawerence are significant to the impact of the conclusion to each of their stories.  Greene’s style is easier to read and follow while Lawerence’s story involves much more symbolism and metaphor.  Greene prepares the reader for a surprising ending.  Greene is able to suggest that the boys may not actually go through with their plan.  But, they do, and Mr. Thomas’ house comes crashing down in the end.  Lawerence spends much more time developing the intent of Paul and the countenance of his mother.  In “The Destructors” Greene may be suggesting that the behavior of the boys is a result of their surroundings.  However, in “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Paul’s character is nothing like what you would expect from an unwanted child.  Instead of hatred and bitterness, he loves.  Lawerence uses a great deal of irony.  The greatest iron of all being that Paul’s mother, who is obsessed with the need for ‘things’ loses her own son who was no cost at all and their all along. 

Although there are differences in style, both stories imply the wickedness of materialism.   Greene and Lawerence show how wealth and selfish ambition affect people. The greed of ‘Old Misery’ led to the deep rooted hatred of Mr. Thomas.  This greed manifested itself with the destruction all that stood between them and Mr. Thomas.  Did he get what he deserved? Maybe and maybe not.  However, Lawerence makes it clear that Paul did not deserve to die.  Maybe his mother, but not ‘Master Paul’.  The picture of materialism and its affect on others in “The Destructors” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”, is brought into focus after carefully scrutinizing the aspects of both stories.



Works Cited

Greene, Graham. “The Destructors.” Fictions. Eds. Joseph F. Trimmer and C. Wade Jennings. 4th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1998.

Lawrence, D.H. "The Rocking Horse Winner." The Oxford Book of Short Stories. Comp. V.S. Prichett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. 275-289. Print.



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