In both “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, the authors take critical aim at two staples of mainstream values, materialism and tradition respectively. Both authors approach these themes through several different literary devices such as personification and symbolism; however, it is the authors' use of characterization that most develop their themes. We'll be taking a look at the parallel passages in the stories that advance their themes particularly when those passages involve both of the authors' subtle character descriptions, and why this method of character development is so powerful in conveying the authors' messages.
The only story in which an author employed personalization is “The Rocking Horse Winner,” and did so to profound effect. The whisperings of the house is the first indicator the reader has that the protagonist family's materialism is not merely an interesting trait (as evidenced by the description of the family's feeling of superiority in their community) but will be the focus of the story's theme and plot as well. Lawrence pays special care to make sure that the sinister mood generated by constant and ever-present whispers, and the potential to enhance the theme, does not go to waste. By assigning the whispers to specific locations and objects, having inanimate objects notice them, and having the whispers respond to events in the story (especially the introduction of Paul's ₤5000 winnings), Lawrence highlights the critical nature of his short story with regards to materialism.
It is the author's portrayal of Paul, however, that most promotes the theme throughout the story. Paul's most striking trait is his obsession that, although is an obvious correlate to his mother's, is much more intense than hers. The concept of character flaws that are passed down via a parent-child connection being even more destructive for the recipient than the conferrer resurfaces at the end when Paul dies from his obsession when satisfying the whispers of the house. His obsession, however, is made more evocative by what Lawrence doesn't tell us about him. Paul's mystique, which the author most frequently communicates through descriptions of Paul's eyes, serves to make him a more disturbing and, therefore, compelling figure. Yet, his altruistic motives help us as readers to view him as a victim, and, in turn, view that which killed him (obsession with material gain) as the villain.
Shirley Jackson also utilizes literary devices to good effect in “The Lottery,” especially that of symbolism. By keeping the setting devoid of...