Composition and Literature, LEARNING

Comparing and Contrasting “The Lottery” and “The Rocking-Horse Winner”

This is a fiction essay I wrote comparing and contrasting “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence. These are two of my favorite short stories.

the-lottery-and-the-rocking-horse-winner-short-stories

Essay Thesis Statement: Both stories show the greed that can be in a family and the thirst for money and luck over love. Unfortunate death is the end result.

Essay Outline: Conflict/Plot/Structure
The Lottery: No conflict is immediately seen in this story. Instead, the author keeps the motive of her story hidden until the very end when the conflict really begins. The conflict is not resolved in this story and of course, I most feel sympathy for Tessie for dying a mean death.

The Rocking-Horse Winner: The conflict arises when the main character and boy, Paul, is uncertain about the horse who will win the Derby. His uncertain and strange behavior also affects his mother who is unaware of what has been happening. This conflict is resolved by Paul becoming certain of the winning horse and leaving his mother with plenty of money but in the end he dies. I most feel sympathy for Paul, because he felt the only way to get his mother’s love was by buying it.

Characterization
The Lottery: The main character is Tessie Hutchinson who becomes unlucky after drawing the marked paper and is stoned to death. Despite how short the story is, I think Tessie is a complex character because she only says the lottery is unfair when she is chosen to die, yet every other year she joined in without hesitation.

The Rocking-Horse Winner: The main character is Paul who feels that his mother does not love him and is always in need of money. By riding a rocking-horse he received as a Christmas gift he is sometimes able to predict the winning horse of races and receives a lot of money from his bids that he puts aside for her. The second main character is Paul’s mother who neglects and feigns to love her children while always looking for ways to make more money. Both characters appear to always be anxious, worried and unloved in different ways.

Theme/Authors’ Purposes
The Lottery: I did not immediately get the theme of this story. At first look, it appears to be a violent story the author wrote for amusement. After some research, I found that Shirley Jackson said: “Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” This is a good point because no one in the village seems to be shocked or saddened at the senseless murders they take part in every year. Instead of questioning a violent tradition, they go along with it and bring up their children in that kind of society. Our society today is not much different when we hear murder reports everyday. We must be careful not to allow that to become normal for us but know that all violence is wrong and every human life should be treated much better.

The Lottery: The main issues in this story are greed, luck, money, and love. The mother loves money over her children, and fails to care for them. The children sense this but no one talks about it. The boy comes to believe that you are only lucky if you have money and thinks the only way to have his mother’s love is to buy it which he tries to do by setting aside the money he gets through betting on winning horses for her.

Fiction Essay

Both “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence have underlying morals in their plot lines. For some, the morals will not be seen immediately and may have to be read more than once before being fully understood. I believe this is more true for “The Lottery” than “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” The authors show through fiction how greed can destroy a family and how death is often the end of one who chooses luck over love.

“The Lottery” is a very short story which portrays a small American town. Every year the people in this town hold a ritual in which a person has to be stoned to death so the town can have a good harvest. This ritual is known as “the lottery,” thus the name for the story title. No conflict is immediately seen in this story. Instead the town people stand about as if the day is progressing normally and even the children who gather the stones appear as if nothing out of the ordinary is about to happen. By writing in a tone that is calm and forecasts no impending doom, the reader is never aware of any conflict until the very end when Tessie is about to be murdered.

Tessie, the main character, in “The Lottery” becomes the unlucky one after drawing the marked paper at the lottery and is stoned to death. Tessie is the only one to protest the lottery by claiming it to be unfair when she is chosen to die. Even though this may sound noble, Tessie should still be questioned because she only spoke out against the lottery when she knew she was going to die having participated in the event in previous years.

I did not immediately get the theme of this story. At first look, it may appear to be a senseless story of violence. When it was first published, Shirley Jackson was heavily criticized for writing such a story. After some research, I found that Shirley Jackson said: “Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” This is a good point because no one in the village seems to be shocked or saddened at the senseless murders they take part in every year. Instead of questioning a violent tradition, they go along with it and bring up their children in that kind of society. Readers can learn from that.

Our society today is not that much different from the town. Everyday we hear about someone being murdered and if we are not careful that can become a normality for us. We should never become comfortable with unfair murders and crime but know that all violence is wrong and every human life should be treated as special.

Another moral to take from this story is that we must question things that go on around us. The lottery was a traditional ritual in the town and all of the people participated in it every year without questioning its morality. Something disturbing about “The Lottery” is that Tessie’s family eagerly participated in her murder. Her husband, Bill, is the one who showed the crowd her paper and in one of the last sentences it says: “The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.” They did not question the ritual even when one of their own were to die.

“The Rocking-Horse Winner” is also complex in several ways even though it begins simply enough: “There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them.” These opening sentences immediately tell us that conflict is imminent in this story. After learning about the mother we are introduced to her children. Among them is one of the main characters, the boy called Paul.

Paul feels that his mother does not love him because while pretending to care, she is actually bitter about their financial plight and does not really care for her children. Paul feels that the only way to get his mother to love him is by trying to buy her love. By riding a rocking-horse he received as a Christmas gift he is sometimes able to predict the winning horse of races and receives a lot of money from his bids that he puts aside for her.

Most of the characters in this story appear stressed, anxious, and worried. The conflict arises near the end of the story. After correctly predicting many winning horses, Paul is now uncertain about the horse who will win the Derby. His uncertain and strange behavior also affects his mother who is unaware of what has been happening all along. This conflict is resolved by Paul becoming certain of the winning horse and leaving his mother and family with plenty of money and without a boy because of his death.

The main issues in this story are greed, luck, money, and love. The mother loves money over her children, and fails to care for them. The children sense this but no one talks about it. The boy comes to believe that you are only lucky if you have money and thinks the only way to have his mother’s love is to buy it which he tries to do by setting aside the money he gets through betting on winning horses for her.

Both of these stories highlight family and both of them portray negative things that happen in families. As seen in “The Lottery,” family is not always the best friend and can sometimes be your worst enemy. In “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” a family can appear very much together and seems to be doing well but is actually apart and suffering.

Works Cited:
Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. Literature. Longman, 2010. Print.
The Lottery. Wikipedia, 15 July 2011. ‹http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery›.

Photo credit 1: Seven Cut / Photo credit 2: Amazon.com

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