Thursday, April 24, 2008

"The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence

Source: Voices in the Dark (mp3)
Length: 33 minutes
Reader: Dawn Keenan

The story: "The Rocking-Horse Winner" features a set-up that is sure to resonate with the current economic downturn. In 1920's England, a middle-class family feels the financial strain of trying to keep up the appearances of prosperity. The constant unspoken refrain of "There must be more money" turns the mother to resent her children. In response, Paul, the only son, resolves to become lucky and through luck bring money to the family.

Writing during the heyday of psychoanalysis, Lawrence packs his story with Freudian themes and imagery. The motivating force for the plot is the mother's coldness and her son's desperate seeking for her love and attention. The father is almost absent from the story, his place taken up by Uncle Oscar and the gardener Bennett. Devoid of both maternal and paternal love, Paul channels his energy into horse racing. In the Freudian case study of Little Hans, to which this story bears a number of resemblances, horses are connected with sexual desire; the climatic scene in this story has the feel of being caught in flagrante delicto. Lawrence is echoing the psychoanalyst's interest in the sexual and physical obsessions that result when the parents care more about money than expressing parental love.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Ms. Keenan delivers a fine reading of a story that can pose a difficulty to oral interpretations. She begins the story with a dead tone that matches the bitterness of the story's mood, but soon warms to the flow of the plot. She performs an excellent facsimile of young boy's soprano and a good gruff voice for the uncle. Her other voices are nondescript, but also less important to the story. In the sound quality department, there is a bit of high-pitched tinkling during audio edits, but that may simply be an artifact of listening on earbud-type headphones. Otherwise, the sound is professionally recorded.

(photo by Mrs. Logic via flickr. Creative Commons Attribution license.)

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