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The Rocking Horse Winner

Using the literary theory of formalism, I analyzed four textual elements of D. H. Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse.

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The four textual elements I analyzed included protagonist, antagonist, conflict, and setting. There are two major conflicts in this story: an external conflict, which involves the family’s financial state, and an internal conflict, which involves Paul’s desire to please his mother. The external conflict is stated repeatedly in the story: “There is not enough money”.

The family lives in a state of constant anxiety over lack of funds. The parents live a lifestyle that is above their means: their expenses are more than their income. Paul, the main character, learns through the example of his mother that money will solve the family’s problems. Paul ultimately sacrifices himself in the pursuit of bringing money into the household. Paul is the most important character in the story and could be considered the hero of the text.

The story revolves around Paul and his quest to solve his family’s money problems in order to gain his mother’s love. Therefore, Paul is the protagonist of The Rocking Horse. The character who directly opposes Paul is Hester, Paul’s mother. Hester causes Paul to believe that the family is threatened by poverty. Furthermore, when Paul brings income into the household with his winning predictions, Hester spends the money. The Rocking Horse is set in in an upper middle class home in London, England.

The house can be considered upper-middle class because Lawrence described the house as both pleasant and run by servants. Further to this, the nursery within the home is described as ‘full of toys’. The author implies that the story takes place near or around London, England through the naming of various London-area horse tracks. Therefore analyzing these four textural elements using the literary theory of formalism, the reader can have a better understanding how these were used in the story.