Examples of Situational Irony in "The Rocking-Horse Winner"
Situational irony occurs when actions have the opposite of an intended effect, precisely the problem that Paul, the prescient child of a greedy mother, experiences in D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner." Paul uses his preternatural gift for picking winning horses to save a family already doomed by the materialism of his mother, Hester. The story itself is synonymous with irony; its obvious situational irony is that the family's affluence is gained at the expense of Paul's life.
Paul's Need Ironically Fulfilled
Yale professor Harold Bloom praised Lawrence as "adept at what could not be said," and other situational ironies in "Rocking Horse" are unspoken. Implied throughout is Paul's crying need for a mother's love and solid family support. Ironically, this natural need is only satisfied unnaturally, when he uses second sight to find winners. This earns him love and praise as a prodigy when it should be due him as a son.
The Brother Understands
A final situational irony occurs at story's end when Hester's brother announces Paul's death: "he's best gone out of [this] life." The brother, who has seen the tragedy from a distance, understands Paul far better than his natural mother does, noting that she has destroyed a miracle to gain a bank balance.
Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.