Compare And Contrast Once Upon A Time

And The Rocking Horse Winner Essay, Research Paper

“Compare and Contrast “Once Upon a Time” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”

There are similarities and differences between Nadine Gordimer’s “Once Upon a Time” and D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner.” Both works take the reader on an emotional journey that deliver a social message with an impact. The authors’ investigate fear, a mother/child relationship as well as the death of a child. The plot, character development, foreshadowing, and repetition are also worthy topics for evaluation.

The social message Ms. Gordimer tackles is that you cannot protect yourself from the evils of society. Because of their fears, the family in the story invites horror to their dwelling through an ever-expanding security system. Fear leads to paranoia, paranoia to tragedy. As the little boy, living out his fantasies becomes ensnarled in his parents’ obsession, the tragedy unfolds and everyone is left searching for answers. The tale draws a clear parallel to a child shot by the family gun, or attacked by a guard dog purchased to protect property.

In contrast, D. H. Lawrence assesses the entrapments of gambling. He profiles a boy obsessed with winning at the horse track in order to please his mother. Fear, in this story, resides in the boy’s mind, as he struggles to prove his luck to his mother. His mother equates luck to money, henceforth, driving the child to accumulate money and in his mind become lucky. The mother’s assumptions push the boy to the brink and beyond in an effort to determine which horse will win the race.

The two mothers in the stories view their roles in child rearing quite differently, unfortunately yielding the same results. The authors reveal that even the best of intentions can have disastrous results. In “Once Upon a Time” the doting mother attempts to insulate the child from the outside world and provide for his every need. Failing to heed the warnings, the mother insists on intensifying security measures – all in the name of safety. She briefly evaluates the risk of such primal defense measures but deems them necessary to protect her descendant. The youth’s demise demonstrates the error in her logic.

Quite the reverse is true in “The Rocking Horse Winner,” where the child provides for his narcissistic and self-centered mother. The phrase “when her children were present, she always felt the centre of her heart go hard” (513) accurately describes her true feeling for her family. Moreover, after her son starts to win at the horse track, she asks for and receives an advance on her annuity. The mother promptly spends her newfound money on “certain new furnishings” (521). Showing her gratitude, she screams “Now there must be more money! – more than ever!” (521). Finally, the mother demands so much from the child that she pushes him to madness and eventually an exhaustive death.

The two story’s share similarities in plots. If the reader diagrammed the two stories using Fraytag’s pyramid as a model, the results would mirror each other. From the exposition to the climax, the characters evolve slowly. As the tale progresses, the tension grows, eventually leading to the climax that dives sharply to the resolution. In fact, the resolution occurs so late that the reader is left probing for his or her own deductions.

On the other hand, the writers display different styles in character development. D. H. Lawrence develops the gardener as a dynamic individual while Ms. Gordimer prefers to leave the serfs as flat characters. The added dialog from these characters in “The Rocking Horse Winner” adds depth and understanding to the story. The secret gambling relationship between the boy and the gardener is an integral part of the plot. Without this link, the boy would not have been able to support his mother’s expensive tastes. The relationship also adds to the tension of the story by bringing an outsider into the fold and exposing the family secrets. Ms. Gordimer’s approach effectively relies on imagery and foreshadowing to replace the direct dialog. The description of vagrants in the neighborhood and turmoil in the city, give the story a feeling of impending doom. The imagery is so powerful in “Once Upon a Time,” that if the story were full of dialog, it could easily become overwhelming.

Another similarity is the use of repetition throughout the tale. D. H. Lawrence repeatedly stated that the house whispered “There must be more money” (513). The author reinforces this phrase by telling us that everyone in the house hears the whispering, even the wooden rocking horse. This line foreshadows the insanity that lurks in the house and gives a sense of urgency to the dilemma of the character. Nadine Gordimer also uses repetition to foreshadow tragedy with the line “YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED” (75). The warning is early in the story, and is in the form of a sign hanging on a gate. This sign serves as warning for both the tempted trespassers and the reader.

While there are similarities and differences in Nadine Gordimer’s and D. H. Lawrence’s styles, both writers effectively communicate a moral message and expertly use foreshadowing and repetition in their works. Both artists develop the plot is similar manners, but chose different avenues when it comes to which characters to develop in a story. The authors’ use fear, a mother/child relationship as well as death, to drive home their opinions with bone chilling efficiency.


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