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  1. To Posterity - Louis MacNeice

When books have all seized up like the books in graveyards

And reading and even speaking have been replaced

By other, less difficult, media, we wonder if you

Will find in flowers and fruit the same colour and taste

They held for us for whom they were framed in words,

And will your grass be green, your sky blue,

Or will your birds be always wingless birds?

–Louis MacNeice, from Collected Poems (2013)

About the Author

Born on September 12, 1907, in Belfast, Ireland to parents originally from Connemara in the West of Ireland. In 1909 they moved to Carrickfergus due to the appointment of MacNeice’s father as rector for the Anglican Church in the town. His father later became a Bishop. At the age of ten he was sent to school in Dorset. MacNeice went on to study classics at Oxford, becoming a close friend and poetic contemporary of W.H. Auden. He majored in classics and philosophy.

In 1930, he married Giovanna Ezra and accepted a post as classics lecturer at the University of Birmingham, a position he held until 1936, when he went on to teach Greek at Bedford College for Women, University of London. He earned his living as a university lecturer in Classics. The second world war found him in the United States - not an escaper or refugee, but an invited guest-lecturer in English at Cornell, because by 1939 he was indeed a famous poet, prolific, sought after for poems and opinions. He came back to England in 1941 and joined the BBC, where he spent more than 20 years in the legendary radio features department as writer/producer. Some of his best-known plays, including 'Christopher Columbus' (1944), and 'The Dark Tower' (1946), were originally written for radio and later published.

Despite his association with young British poets Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, writer Christopher Isherwood, and other left-wing poets, MacNeice was as mistrustful of political programs as he was of philosophical systems. He was never a member of the Communist Party or any other political groups, and he was quite candid about the ambiguities of his political attitudes. "My sympathies are Left," he wrote. "But not in my heart or my guts."

Although he chose to live most of his adult life in London, MacNeice frequently returned to the landscapes of his childhood. His poetry is characterised by its familiar, sometimes humorous tone and its integration of contemporary ideas and images. In August of 1963, on location with a unit of the BBC, he went down in a mineshaft. The 'cold' he caught was not diagnosed as pneumonia until too late. He died a month after at 55 years old. He died on September 3, 1963, just before the publication of his last book of poems, The Burning Perch. Ironically, Louis MacNeice was born in the month of September (1907) and died in September(1963).

Louis MacNeice (1907 - 1963)

Louis MacNeice (1907 - 1963)

About the Poem

Traditionally, a book carved into a gravestone signified the Book of Life, awaiting review by the Heavenly Critic. MacNeice pays poetry and the written word a splendid compliment. When the world is no longer “framed in words,” when the best eyes and ears of the past are no longer consulted, when we presume to confront the world in all our arrogant solitude, what remains? A weirdly mutated world of “wingless birds.” Without words, grass is no longer “green” but something less.

“If you read books of lasting value, you ought to study what you read, and if you study, you ought to take notes. And if you take notes, you owe it to yourself to assemble them into some sort of coherent commentary. What is the point of studious reading if not to evaluate critically what you read, assimilating the good while rejecting the bad? The forming of the mind is the name of the game. This won't occur from passive reading, but only by an active engagement with the material. The best way to do this is by writing up your own take on it.


The main theme in the story The Rocking Horse Winner is greed. The mother and father both had very expensive tastes and their children basically resented them for it. There was never enough money and both parents had small incomes. The children were starting to grow up and would have to begin school soon. But all of the family’s money was being wasted on things that were not important. The family believed that their house had become haunted with the unspoken phrase, “There must be more money!” Everyone heard it, but never said or did anything about it. The parents continued to buy unnecessary things. At Christmas time, they heard the phrase when all of the children’s expensive toys filled the house. It was believed it was the toys that haunted the house, since the mother’s greed it what caused her to buy the toys in the first place.

A motif of the Rocking Horse Winner could be luck. The mother led her son to believe that they are an unlucky family. She believes this because they have no fortune and are basically poor. She believes that if you have money, you are lucky. She told her son the cause of their unluckiness is because of his father. Since he has a small income, he was unlucky, and since she married him, it made her unlucky as well. She also told Paul that it is better to be born lucky rather than rich because if you a rich you could lose all of your money, but if you are lucky you will continue to receive money.

The theme and motif seem to tie together to create the tragic outcome of this story. The mother’s greed and belief of unluckiness led to her own son’s death. Since she told her son about their luck, he began betting on race horses and winning a lot of money for her, which she still continued to blow on unnecessary things. Paul believed they were finally becoming a lucky family so he continued to bet. The pressure of trying to pick the right horse made him really stressed out and caused him to basically go crazy and have a heart attack, which led to his death.

Source -


Paul - Paul is a young boy who is troubled by the lack of love and money in his house. He is determined to find luck for his mother.

Paul's mother - Paul's mother, Hester, is incapable of loving others including her children. She is irresponsible with money.

Joan - Joan is Paul's elder sister. She is uneasy about Paul's obsession with his rocking horse.

Bassett - Bassett is the family gardener and Paul's partner in betting on horses.

Father - Father is never named or present in the story. He is unlucky in business because he doesn't make enough money to support Paul's mother's expensive tastes.

The narrator - The unnamed narrator relates events of the story and provides insight into characters' thoughts and feelings.

Uncle Oscar - Oscar Cresswell is Paul's uncle and Paul's mother's brother. He uses Paul's tips to make money betting on horses.

The whispering house - The whispering house acts as a symbol of the family's anxieties about lack of money, voicing these anxieties by constantly whispering, "There must be more money."


Greed and Materialism

In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," Lawrence exposes greed and materialism as destructive and dangerous. Paul's mother's greed fills the house with anxious whisperings rather than love. Instead of giving her children the love and attention they crave, she buys them expensive toys. She fills the house with luxuries the family can't afford in an attempt to appear as wealthy as the neighbors. When she receives a gift of birthday money, secretly given to her by Paul, she buys more fancy things instead of paying off debts. Instead of quieting the house, it screams more loudly for money. It appears that Paul's mother's greed is never-ending. When she receives more money, she spends it all on expensive things, which leads her to desire more money.

Uncle Oscar seems like a caring uncle in the beginning of the story, but he grows greedy as the story progresses and exploits Paul to make himself richer. When he discovers that Paul and the young gardener Bassett are earning money, he wants to know more. He becomes a partner in the scheme and encourages Paul to continue to provide them with tips for horses to bet on. Even as Paul lies dying, Uncle Oscar, "in spite of himself," puts a bet on the last horse Paul named. He comforts mother by saying that she is now wealthy, and that Paul is better off dead because he no longer has to ride his rocking horse to find a winner.

Paul, in his own way, is greedy, too. He is greedy for luck to make his mother happy. If he can do that, perhaps he will win her love and attention. However, the more luck or money he gives her, the more she wants. So Paul greedily pursues more luck for her. Lawrence shows that any greed—even selfless greed—is destructive.

Luck and Money

Paul first confuses luck and money when he hears Uncle Oscar refer to money as "filthy lucker." Paul's mother explains that it's "filthy lucre," not luck. Filthy lucre means money earned in a dishonorable way. She explains that luck is what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you can always get more money. If you're unlucky you'll never have enough. Paul's mother tells Paul that his father is very unlucky, and she is unlucky because she married him.

It's important to note that the family is well-off. They live in a nice house in a good neighborhood and have servants to take care for them. The reason they don't have enough money has nothing to do with luck. They simply spend too much money to support their lavish lifestyle. Paul's mother wants to appear wealthier than her neighbors. By associating money with luck, rather than hard work, Paul's mother can avoid taking any responsibility for the family's financial situation. In the end money does not bring luck, it brings death.

Mother-Son Relationship

"The Rocking-Horse Winner," like many of Lawrence's works, explores an unhealthy relationship between a mother and a son. Several of Lawrence's novels describe mothers who are overly involved and domineering, and sons who struggle to free themselves to live their own lives. Paul's mother, in contrast, is a distant mother who is unable to love her children. She makes a show of being gentle and adoring, and everyone thinks she is a good mother. But Paul and his sisters know she doesn't love them. Paul also knows that his mother is unhappy because she doesn't have luck, which she believes is the difference between being rich and being poor. Paul's mother explains to Paul that his father is very unlucky.

Though he is just a child, Paul assumes the responsibility for finding luck for his mother. He makes money betting on horses and secretly gives it to his mother. In the process he is replacing his father, who can't provide for his mother as she wants. In the end his obsessive desire to please his mother kills him. This may be a fictional reflection of Lawrence's attempt to please his mother by being a scholar and a teacher. Lawrence got very sick twice while working and almost died.

As Paul becomes more tense throughout the story, Paul's mother becomes increasingly anxious for him. When Paul collapses in a brain fever at the end, his mother sits by his side, heartbroken. Perhaps she has finally learned to love Paul just as she is losing him, or it may be part of her act. It is up to the reader to decide if Paul's mother feels her new wealth is worth the life of her son.

3. Memoirs of a Mad Man - Gustave Flaubert

Memoirs of a Mad Man

This very early work, written when Flaubert was an adolescent but published only long after his death (in 1900), records the amatory and intellectual effusions of a lovestruck youth whose “madness” is really only romantic hyperbole. In its rhapsodies about childhood, schooling, travel, and especially the images of unattainable idealized females, we see glimmering intimations of both Flaubert’s sardonic Bildüngsroman Sentimental Education and his masterpiece, Madame Bovary. But these Memoirs are unmemorable—unlike the brief 1837 story “Bibliomania” that follows them. It’s a deftly plotted, precociously urbane parable of obsession, somewhat reminiscent of (of all things) early Edgar Allan Poe.