Differences in Rocking-Horse Winner, Prussian Officer, and Second Best
Works by the same author often show the repeated use of certain words, images, or plots. In five short stories by the author, D.H. Lawrence, differences between social classes are the basis for conflict and provide the foundation for taboo relationships. These five stories are "The Rocking-Horse Winner," "The Prussian Officer," "Second Best," "The White Stocking," and "The Daughters of the Vicar." The inclusion of the motif of class differences in these particular works often leads to acts of violence or tragedy as the outcome.
In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," a relationship forms between the pseudo- aristocratic Paul and his family's gardener, Bassett. Paul's family is not by any means rich, but "they felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighborhood." Bassett, in contrast, is a young war veteran turned gardener with a passion for horse racing. It turns out that this passion is shared by Paul and his uncle Oscar, as well. Oscar is at first disapproving of the relationship between "old man" Bassett and his nephew, but the love for horse racing and gambling puts them on the same level. The class difference between the men is used by Lawrence to show that debt and greed are universal desires — they are not confined to the lower classes. The fatal climax of the story is sadly also its end. When Paul falls off of the rocking-horse and lies dying in his bed, his mother is brought down from her imaginary pedestal of social superiority and allows Bassett (with whom the boy's "intense hours" were spent) to visit with him. The story ends tragically with social differences being readily apparent.
"The Prussian Officer" is similar to "The Rocking-Horse Winner" in that the story ends with death. However, "The Prussian Officer" contains much more contrast between the status of its two main characters, the servant and the officer. Consequently, more violence also arises. The officer is, "a Prussian aristocrat, haughty and overbearing. Having made too many gambling debts . . . he remained an infantry captain"(2). The officer is furious at the youth and vigor of his servant, he often catches himself admiring the "young, brown, shapely peasant's hand"(3) or "the strong, easy young figure, the fine eyebrows, the thick black hair" (5). The class difference is accentuated by the officer's cruelty towards his young charge: he is forced to stay indoors doing mindless tasks instead of spending a few meager minutes with his girlfriend, he is violently kicked behind the legs for failing to answer a question quickly enough, he is slapped in the face with the end of a belt, and he is struck with a heavy military glove in the same way. The officer is clearly jealous of the freedom of the peasantry, and indicates this with his thoughts of hatred and violent actions as well as words. The servant is tortured simply for who he is, not for what he has done: he is lower than the officer and,...