Compare and Contrast: The Destructors and The Rocking Horse Winner
Graham Greene's "The Destructors" and D. H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner", are very different stories, but both contain striking similarities. "The Destructors" and "The Rocking Horse Winner" were both written by British authors and set in a post war Great Britain. Both stories were written after a World War, so the living conditions were still miserable. I will compare and contrast the authors' choice of themes and characters, emotions, materialism, use of suspense, and setting.
The themes of both stories are developed around the characters of the stories, especially on the children in each story. The characters in "The Destructors" are not as fully developed as the characters in "The Rocking Horse Winner". The only two characters that Green developed were Trevor, better known as "T", and Mr. Thomas, also referred to as Old Misery. Trevor was the newcomer that quickly became the leader of the gang. Old Misery was an architect that lived in a crippled house, that is pretty much the only building still standing in that area. The destruction of this house becomes the challenge and the focus for Trevor and the rest of the characters who are grouped together as the Wormsley gang. They have grown up together and share the experience of bombs falling on their town. "The Rocking Horse Winner" has characters that are a little more rounded. Paul, the boy in the story, his mother, his Uncle, and Bassett the gardener are in constant turmoil over poverty. Paul has an obsessive desire to become lucky, due to the fact of his mother's obsession with luck. His mother believes that luck is money. He constantly hears the house whispering over and over the phrase, "there must be more money" there must be more money". He knows that even though his mother appears to love him outwardly, that she does not love him on the inside. Paul believes that if he can become lucky, get more money, he will be able to please his mother. The houses in both stories are very symbolic.
The emotions and feelings of the characters play heavily on the plot. In "The Destructors", Trevor has a chance to peek into the world of Mr. Thomas, and becomes angry at what he sees. Trevor's visit gives fuel to the curiosities of the gang and he spurns them on to do something about it, by destroying the house. Trevor's father used to be an architect, but has had a step down in life and is working as a clerk. Trevor's reaction to Mr. Thomas's house could be due to jealousy. In "The Rocking Horse Winner" Paul's mother is very angry. Even though in other people's eyes, she has everything, in her own, she believes she has nothing. Her husband's income does not support the life she feels she deserves. She equates luck with wealth. She tells her son that she was lucky before she got married, but blames the despair of her life on her husband. Even though Paul suffers from a lack of love and compassion from his mother, he still shows nothing but love for her and would do anything for her.
Both stories contain an element of materialism and greed. In The Destructors, the boy's are not monetarily materialistic, but greedy in the sense of fulfilling their desire to destroy. This seen in the destroying of Mr. Thomas home and the burning of the money they found in the mattress. Mr. Thomas was also greedy. Even though he had the money and resources to fix his house and broken plumbing, he did not. He would walk to an outhouse to go to the bathroom and he would rather hide his money in a mattress than trusting any bank.
"The Rocking Horse Winner" has its own element of greed. Paul's love for his mother is very evident, even though she is very selfish. Paul is set on finding a way to help fulfill his mother's greedy wants and desires. Through the whole story Paul is trying to find more ways to make money for his mother so she can be "lucky" again. Paul believed that if he could quiet the voices of the house he would be able to help his mother achieve happiness and gain her love.
The setting of each story is very important to their themes. Both authors use homes as part of the main setting. All of the children hear the whisper of the house, but do not actually mention it; they can see it in each other eyes. Paul literally hates his house because of the whispering. "The Rocking Horse Winner" ends with Paul's mother finding him in his room at 1:00 in the morning riding his rocking horse feverishly. He was so driven on finding a winner to the race that he literally rides himself to death on his toy horse. "The Destructors" concludes with Old Misery's house being completely finished off when a driver pulls it down with his car. Mr. Thomas's house remained standing even through the bombing of the war, but was leveled by children.
Suspense is used in both stories and continues to build until their conclusion. Lawrence catches you with a surprise ending. You expect Paul to be able to guess the winner of the races and think that he might become rich in the end, but you do not realize he is going to die. Greene prepares you for a surprise ending, but teases that it might not happen. The boys knew exactly how much time they had to complete their task because of the specific time Mr. Thomas was supposed to return. The suspense is heightened when Mr. Thomas returns early, and there are still boys working inside. The locking of Mr. Thomas in the lav adds to the excitement of the story. He hears what he believes to be building, but has no idea that it is actually the destruction of his house.
Even in a life-like story like "The Destructors" or a total fantasy like "The Rocking Horse Winner" the seeds of materialism are very evident. Both stories show that wealth and greed go hand and hand. Greene shows that the greed of Mr. Thomas led to a deep-rooted hatred towards him by the Wormsley gang. They destroyed the one thing, Mr. Thomas's house, which separated them. Lawrence shows that Paul should not have died in the story. Maybe it should have been the mother, not Paul. Her greed led to the destruction, the death, of her own son. Both stories show that materialism is very evident and damaging whether you are rich or poor.
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