58 pages 1 hour read

D. H. Lawrence

The Rocking Horse Winner

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1926

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Reading Context

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Short Answer

1. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud coined the term “Oedipus complex” to refer to a desire that might appear during early childhood development. What does this term mean? What are the literary origins of this term?

Teaching Suggestion: This question invites students to consider their prior knowledge of a term used frequently in psychoanalysis as well as literature: an “Oedipus complex.” Freud argued that during a child’s third and fifth year of development, depending on the environment of the household, children may develop an unhealthy attachment to the parent of the opposite sex while trying to assume the role of parent of the same sex. For boys, this was called the “Oedipus complex,” alluding to the Greek myth of Oedipus Rex, who mistakenly killed his father and married his mother. Similarly, girls who demonstrated similar behavior were said to be showing the “Electra complex.” In “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” Lawrence shows the Oedipus complex at work in Paul: After realizing that his father is “unlucky” and unable to fulfill his mother’s financial desires, Paul seeks to please her by becoming the household breadwinner.