D. H. Lawrence was writing during the early part of the twentieth century, and he, like most writers of the day, was significantly influenced by World War I. He had read and loved the novels of nineteenth-century writers George Eliot, author of Silas Marner, and Thomas Hardy, author of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but grew dissatisfied with the predictability of such characters. After the war, many people began to; question the old ways of looking at the world. Lawrence joined in the questioning by making his characters less sure of themselves, less bound by the rules of polite society that dominated nineteeth-century fiction.
Lawrence became interested in the psychological motivations for why people do the things they do. Psychology as a science was in its infancy at this time. Sigmund Freud, the “father” of modern psychology, was formulating his theories regarding the unconscious through observing his patients at his . . . Read More
In “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” a young boy, Paul, perceives that there is never enough money in his family, he sets out to find a way to get money through luck. He discovers that if he rides his rocking-horse fast enough, he will somehow “know” the name of the winning horse in the next race. He begins to make money and secretly funnel this money to his mother, but the desire for more money only grows more intense instead of going away. He finally rides his rocking-horse so furiously in order to discover the winner of the Derby that he falls into illness and dies, just as the winning horse earns his family an enormous fortune.
The obsession with wealth and material items is pitted against the responsibilities of parenting in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” It is the responsibility of the parents to provide for the children in a family. It is also the responsibility of the parents to . . . Read More
Bassett is the family gardener who helps Paul place bets on horses. He used to work around horses and racing and he talks about racing all the time, so it seems reasonable that Paul would seek his advice. He takes the boy seriously and follows all the boy’s instructions in placing the bets. He also keeps Paul’s money safely hidden away, at least until Uncle Oscar gets involved. He is the only adult who treats Paul with a serious respect. It is Bassett’s seriousness that convinces Uncle Oscar that Paul’s gift for picking winners is real. He is trustworthy and kind, but he is also a servant, so once Uncle Oscar takes over, he respectfully withdraws from the action.
Oscar Cresswell is Paul’s uncle and Hester’s brother. He is in a better financial position than Hester, since he owns his own car and a place in Hampshire. This is because he . . . Read More
D. H. Lawrence’s The Rocking-Horse Winner is the story of a boy’ s gift for picking the winners in horse races. An omniscient narrator relates the tale of a boy whose family is always short of money. His mother is incapable of showing love and is obsessed with the status that material wealth can provide. Her son is acutely aware of his mother’s desire for money, and he is motivated to take action. He wants to help her, but he also wants to silence the voice that haunts him, the voice of the house itself whispering,”There must be more money! There must be more money!”
Paul questions his mother about the family’s circumstances. When he asks her why they do not have a car and why they are the “poor members of the family,” she responds “it’s because your father has no luck.” Dissatisfied with her answer, the boy presses her for an explanation of what makes one person lucky and another unlucky. Finally, he . . . Read More
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most legendary literary figures, not only among lovers of detective fiction. Stories of Holmes’ adventures—and there are only 56 short stories and 4 novels—have been translated throughout the world and made into plays, films, and television programs. There are more than 50 magazines devoted to the discussion of Sherlock Holmes and countless societies formed by people to celebrate him. When Arthur Conan Doyle sold all rights to A Study in Scarlet in 1886 for a mere 25 pounds, he could not possibly have imagined what a star he, Holmes’ assistant Dr. Watson, and the detective himself would become.
Why is Sherlock Holmes so popular? Even his dedicated readers admit that his plots are sometimes rather thin and that the details do not always add up. For instance, “The Red-Headed League” has inspired several articles pointing out its inconsistencies; notes from a Sherlock Holmes’ society meeting discussing the . . . Read More
As the story of bank robbers thwarted by a capable investigator, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League” presents readers with a number of themes related to the classic contest between good and evil. The opposition between detective and criminal tests the warring values each represents. With the detective’s victory, the beliefs and qualities he embodies are confirmed as superior.
Knowledge and Ignorance
Sherlock Holmes’s love of mental puzzles leads to his interest in the odd story Jabez Wilson tells him. His knowledge of crime and ability to reason allow him to discern that a serious motive must lie behind Wilson’s singular experience with the bizarre Red-Headed League. Guided by this knowledge, and the observations he makes as a result, he stops a bank robbery and the further lawless career of a master criminal. Through Jabez Wilson, whom Holmes disdains as “not over-bright,” . . . Read More
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Clay’s apparent desire to learn the pawnbroking trade and his hobby of photography, like the assumed name of Spaulding, mask his intent to rob the City and Suburban Bank. Identified as a “murderer, thief, smasher, and forger,” he is skilled enough at crime to have eluded the police for years. Holmes seems almost respectful when he identifies Clay as “the fourth smartest man in London” and compliments him on the ingenuity of his scheme. Clay’s acid-splashed forehead and pierced ears hint at a colorful past, but the reader learns little about him aside from his royal blood, aristocratic education, and extreme pride. These attributes suggest that Clay was led to crime by the challenge, rather than the need for money. He may even have a Robin Hood-like motive of stealing from the rich to aid the poor, since police agent Jones mentions that Clay . . . Read More
Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic short story opens with Dr. Watson dropping in on his friend Sherlock Holmes. He finds Holmes in conversation with a man with fiery red hair, a Mr. Jabez Wilson. Wilson has come to Holmes with a problem concerning an organization for which he was working but that has mysteriously disappeared. Wilson owns a pawnshop but had for the last two months been employed part-time. At Holmes’ urging, he tells his story.
Wilson’s assistant Vincent Spaulding had pointed out to Wilson a job notice in the newspaper. It was a job sponsored by the Red-Headed League, and only men with red hair need apply. Spaulding convinced Wilson to go to the interview, and because of the bright color of his hair, Wilson was hired. His job was to copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica from 10 A.M. until 2 P.M. He was not to leave the room at all, or he would lose his job. Wilson enjoyed the extra money he made but one Saturday, when he showed up at work, he saw a . . . Read More
Are we products of nature or of the way we are nurtured? Do our genes dictate who we will be, or is our environment responsible for that? Are we governed by our own free will, or does destiny mandate what will become of us? These are some of the many questions that plague humanity, the questions that give philosophers, sociologists, scientists, and writers material with which to work. Willa Cather, in her short story “Paul’s Case,” brings forth these questions with admirable skill but offers no clear resolution, as can be seen by the two primary types of interpretation her critics have given to the story.
According to Loretta Wasserman, in her book Willa Cather, the interpretations of “Paul’s Case” are divided according to how each individual critic answers the questions. Many see it as a story of a “sensitive, artistically inclined youth crushed by a withering environment, the dreary rigidities of Pittsburgh Presbyterianism and . . . Read More
The years from 1900 to 1910 witnessed great growth in business and industry in America. Fortunes were made producing steel and iron: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and J. P. Morgan all made vast amounts of money during this period. They were the most famous of the “robber barons,” those whose wealth was created by questionable labor practices and whose businesses were favored by the government since they were fundamental in creating the infrastructure necessary for the United States to become a world power. In “Paul’s Case” such industrial leaders appear in references to the “iron kings” discussed on Cordelia Street on Sunday afternoons.
With fewer government regulations on business than there are now, industry leaders ruthlessly pursued profit. Their profits allowed them to become voracious consumers of material goods. Thorstein Veblen, in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), coined the term “conspicuous . . . Read More