Tormented family relationships stem from a number of occurrences. Jealousy, death, abuse, and many other factors can stress relationships to the point of demise. They can often originate from an individual’s character and personality, or further affect it. Much of Lawrence’s writing contains the common theme of tormented family relationships. This theme can be seen in the short story The Rocking-Horse Winner through: “the terrible mother” Hester, “the anti-wise man” Oscar Cresswell, and “the sacrificial scapegoat” Paul.
Hester is portrayed as cold and shallow, accurately demonstrating the terrible mother archetype. Thus, she is a perfect example of the theme of tormented family relationships, present in the short story The Rocking-Horse Winner. When the authour describes what, “Everyone else said of her: ‘She is such a good mother. She adores her children.’ Only she knew herself and her children themselves this was not so” (Lawrence 19). Hester’s character is simply more concerned with wealth and her social image than her own children. She is very corrupted by society, and what society thinks of her. As a result of this, she neglects her children, and pays little attention to their needs. Hester proves to fit the terrible mother archetype, and this shows the present theme of tormented family relationships.
Also, Hester’s brother, Oscar Cresswell, advances the theme of tormented relationships by portraying the “anti-old man” archetype. It is evident that jealousy and family issues are present based on Oscar’s relationships with both his nephew Paul, and his sister Hester. The authour explains, “The Uncle was delighted to find that his small nephew was posted with all the racing news” (Lawrence 22). Oscar inherited the family fortune, as Hester was left with her husband to depend on. Oscar does make an effort to help Hester’s financial situation, although he is also very concerned with wealth and social status, neglecting to realize the near trouble Paul is faced with. Oscar uses his nephew, by exploiting Paul’s “gift” for his own personal wealth, while Hester is struggling to meet her own desires. Oscar is portrayed as the opposite of a saviour, and more as a selfish man. This character archetype further proves the theme of tormented family relationships in the story.
As well, Paul, Hester’s son and Oscar’s nephew, is the young protagonist, who is searching for “luck”, but proves to be the “sacrificial scapegoat”, further proving the present theme. Neglected by his own mother, Paul is desperately trying to get her approval and her love. This is shown in the short story when Paul asks, “Do you think I’m lucky mother? I knew Malabar, didn’t I? Over eighty thousand pounds! I call that lucky, don’t you mother” (Lawrence 33)? Even on Paul’s deathbed, he is desperately scrambling to finally get his mother’s approval. His luck ran out, and his quest as a hero was not fulfilled. Paul simply wanted to be enough for his mother. To finally prove himself, and win her love. His character can be classified as the “sacrificial scapegoat” archetype. Paul’s desperate attempt for his mother’s love proves the theme of tormented family relationships present in this story.
Through the character archetypes of Hester, Paul, and Oscar Cresswell, the theme of tormented family relationships is proved to be shown in many aspects of the short story The Rocking-Horse Winner. Hester’s lack of care and compassion towards her children, Oscar’s greed, and Paul’s desperate attempt to prove himself to his mother, are only a few examples of this clear theme. This theme is not only present in the story, but in the lives of many. These tormented family relationships are often looked over, rather than interpreted as a part of an individual’s personality.