Character Comparison in “The Lottery” by S.Jackson and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.Lawrence
The Lottery main character
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence are fictional stories but have a clear connection to real life. Even though they are different there is a parallel that can be drawn. The one main character in each story is attributed powers that set them apart from the rest of people.
Both characters are given the right and ability to decide the lives of others. They are given this authority for unexplained reasons but they know it is their duty to carry out the decisions and their ability has become the main course in life.
In “The Lottery” Mr. Summers is portrayed to be almost God-like, as he chooses who lives and who dies. The story does not give any background information on how he got into such position of power but it is obvious that he has been doing it for some time and people trust him. The way everyone respects him and sees him as an authority figure, can be seen in the quiet expectance to hear his decision.
In reality, it is chance or luck that selects one person but he is the only person who represents and speaks on its behalf. Over time he has become very professional in his duty and he is described as being very formal and nicely dressed. The outcome of the “lottery” is unwanted for the one person who gets selected but no one comes to question the decision, except for that one person.
It is understandable that everyone is glad that it was not them who took out the paper with a black dot and it is probably the main reason why people do not speak up. But also, people attributed almost supernatural qualities Mr. Summers’ character.
The way everyone stood at a distance and respected the rules of the “lottery” proves that people were somewhat scared and intimidated by Mr. Summers. The story does not give any details about his personality or other characteristics but it is obvious that he is attributed special qualities that came about by forces people cannot quite understand (Jackson, 1948).
The Rocking-Horse Winner main character
“The Rocking-Horse Winner” has a truly supernatural theme. Paul has a gift that is impossible to develop by wishing or practicing. There are no people that select him especially, as the recipient of great powers, so it must be a higher force that made the choice. In this story, there is more background information given about the main character. Paul is described as extremely focused when he is riding his wooden horse.
His gaze is so serious and strange that even his sisters do not dare to speak to him. He is also shown to be caring because he is worried by the fact that his mother does not have any money. All the bets he makes and wins, he saves for his mother and eagerly waits to see her reaction to the good news. In the beginning of the story it is not obvious that he has special qualities but he is not made out to be a regular boy either.
The determination with which he rocks on the “horse”, the look in his eyes and the hearing of the whispering, all set up the reader that he is unique. When it becomes known that he can predict which horse will win the race, his character comes together.
He is shown to be honorable because he does not spend the money selfishly on himself. He wants to help his mother out and this makes the reader respect him even more. The sad ending creates even greater sympathy for him, as his last good deed represents his short and interesting life (Lawrence, 1926).
Comparison and main theme
Both stories have a clear and significant connection to chance and how it manifests itself in people’s lives. Mr. Summers does not have any special qualities but his position in the village and his connection with and regulation of chance makes him special. He is given the position of authority by people, as for some reason they placed him in charge. Chance has selected him indirectly and it is obvious that he was not protected from it either.
Everyone was equal in the selection. Paul, on the other hand, was given his power directly from Nature. He did now know why but he was proud he had it. Chance has selected him for reasons unknown to anyone. It has also given him an ability to know when he was right and when he was not sure.
Paul was smart enough to rely on his instinct and be careful with the bets when the winning horse was not exactly known to him. His journey through life was made significant by the same force of Nature because it has also given him a short life. His condition was inborn and no one had control over the circumstances.
The two stories and real life have many of the same qualities. There are things that cannot be explained or predicted and there are people with unique talents that set them apart from the rest. Chance has always been a part of the mystical forces and it would be safe to suppose that it will stay the same way in the future.
Jackson, S. (1948). The Lottery. Retrieved from <http://sites.middlebury.edu/individualandthesociety/files/2010/09/jackson_lottery.pdf >
Lawrence, D. (1926). The Rocking-Horse Winner. Retrieved from <http://www.dowse.com/fiction/Lawrence.html>