Last Updated 13 Jul 2020

Reality vs. Pretense: the Leading Binary Opposition in Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner

Category Horse, Truth
Essay type Research
Words 1157 (4 pages)
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"You can bend it and twist it; you can misuse and abuse it, but even God cannot change the reality," the famous Michael Levy once said. This emblematic quotation assigns the pivotal basis for human beings upon which all other concepts are measured. It is the "reality" that none pursue but all worship. Since literary works spot the light on realities that people conceal, it is where binary oppositions are truly presented. D. H Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner" is no exception.

By presenting two main mythemes "Reality/Pretend" under the concept of attitudes, Lawrence shows how family members, society citizens and even inanimate objects prefer inferior pretense over superior reality. To begin with, the binary opposition of "Reality/Pretense" is intensively elaborated on by the attitudes of Paul's family. The mother, the uncle and Basset continue putting masks so as to obscure their real intentions towards Paul. The structure of the mother resides in her snake-changing conduct which perfectly conveys contradiction between authenticity and acting as if.

She continually behaves as if she loves her children sincerely while "at the centre of her heart [there is] a hard little place that could not feel love. " The unstable make-believe deeds allow only for herself and her offspring to realize her real inner feelings even though not in front of others. The lack of verbal communication illustrates weakness within the family bonds substituting it with Paul's disapproving glares. By preferring silence over speaking, Paul himself portrays the unprivileged part of another binary: "presence/absence. The sky blue color of his eyes foreshadows his final end in which he leaves the earth to the skies. However, the uncle's role accumulates this pretend-you-care strategy in order to achieve maximum exploitation out of the child. Oscar shows care for the kid when asking Basset about the reason for Paul being interested in derbies. But digging deeper, one finds that it's the uncle who accompanies him to the derby and offers him five dollars. Furthermore, Basset alleges that he sympathizes with the child's interest. However, the hidden goal is no longer veiled; it's to squeeze out the little child for the sake of money.

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None of the family members acts in a real manner except Paul himself. What he has in pops out through his speech. Even this soothing reality changes at the end as the narrator says, "he [has] a secret within a secret, something he [has] not divulged, even to Bassett or to his Uncle Oscar. " Just like his rocking horse, none of Paul's family experiences stability but take the side of inferior part of the binary opposition as their personality determiner. Secondly, pretending a higher status in society is the focus of the mother for which she emotionally abandons her family.

As evidence, the narrator declares, "there [is] always the grinding sense of the shortage of money, though the style [is] always kept up. " Camouflaging the real entitled financial status that the family maintains is what the mother approaches because such a reality would place her on the margins of society. The social networks are obviously built up according to pretended realities. This oxymoron is highly inflected in the way she and her husband expensively dress though the former only obtains "several hundred" as a salary.

The mother's obsession with materialistic possessions forbids her from declaring the reality that they "are poor members of the family. " Instead, she incessantly pretends to have a prestige she doesn't really afford. The mother's egocentricity structure disintegrates the family and drives Paul to pay his life for her sake. Nevertheless, she quests a luxurious house to secrete their real pecuniary capabilities from society. For instance, the narrator asserts, "they live[s]in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they ha[ve] discreet servants, and [feel] themselves superior to anyone in the neighborhood. The inferior part of the binary opposition "Reality/Pretend" is what being avoided to speak about in public confirming the fact that unprivileged mythemes are not praised by society. This life-leading binary opposition is a core principle upon which all other binaries are measured including "satisfaction/ dis-satisfaction. " This is how readers are introduced to two complex binaries when the mother pretends satisfaction and hides the bona fide discontent. Structuralist Barthes emphasizes that binary oppositions are so etched in humanity's mind to the extent that one cannot conquer.

Whether it's the plot structure or the characters’, they all confirm one fact: the quest for money to obey society ends up in a mother's guilt and a child's death. Last but not least, the spine-chilling means, by which inanimate objects in the house act, also contribute to the overall binary opposition that collapses the family. The house and toys pretend a realm of characteristics which are not taken for granted as real ones. The objective reality of the corruption of Paul's environment is based on the personified structures of those inanimate tems. The deluxe-looking house repeats "there must be more money" twelve times throughout the story leading Paul to a traumatic fall-down. A more convincing clue is illustrated by the fact that only at Christmas parties and birthdays, the house goes crazy and becomes haunted by the phrase. D. H Lawrence is actually intensifying the extreme contradiction between what characters are and what they do by delivering the binary opposition under the concept of attitudes. It sounds as a plague moving from animate to inanimate ones.

To add, the "big doll sitting so pink and smirking in her new pram" plays an important role in explaining the binary. "Smirking" is a sign in which the signified is "smiling," and it also contrast reality with pretense. The denotation is to smile offensively with self-satisfied manner, and the connotation is about knowing the eerie truth of the house but not sharing it. It is the structure of the word that exposes unknown truths. Moreover, the puppy "look [s] so extraordinarily foolish" although it knows what the house breathes.

That is related to another second-rate element in "wise/foolish" binary opposition. The idiotic acts of all residents of the house help them to accept pretense. Briefly, the binary isn't only engraved in humans, but also inanimate objects are affected by the ruined deception demonstrated by the house inhabitants. To conclude, the clashing attitudes which govern the relationship between family members, society citizens and non-living residents of the house add an emphasis to the inferior part of all binary oppositions; therefore they experience a deplorable end as a corollary for their un-approved choice.

Structuralism doesn't allow for a truth on boundaries but for a conceivable objective accuracy. What manipulates humanity is made by humans themselves. We create and follow it regardless of our understanding or ignorance, thus preventing ourselves from finding a more productive reality. It's "Reality" which is the privileged in Barthes`s methodology, but Paul's surroundings don’t follow the center affecting him devastatingly. Back to Levy's first quotation, Lawrence's characters tries to misuse and abuse reality, but they cannot change it. Instead, they bury it and become ill-fated.

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Reality vs. Pretense: the Leading Binary Opposition in Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner. (2017, Apr 15). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/reality-vs-pretense-leading-binary-opposition-lawrences-rocking-horse-winner/

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