Which of these stories should be taken more seriously? You should consider:
* What fables are and the purpose of writing them
* The entertainment value of these stories in terms of their structure, suspense, surprises, writer’s style
* Their seriousness value: impact of the fantastical elements on the characters, the message each writer wants to get across, how strongly the writer feels about the subject
* Conclusion: which story should be taken more seriously and why?
Fables are short stories, which tell a moral or truth much like the parables of the bible. They were originally conveyed by word of mouth before being written down in collections. The most famous of these collections was written by Aesop. Most fables contain animals, which have human characteristics. We have been studying two fables The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence.
Robert Louis Stevenson was born on November 13, 1850 in Edinburgh. He suffered from a severe bronchial condition and spent most of his life abroad searching for climates, which would benefit his health. In this way he came to spend a lot of time in the pacific islands. This is where The Bottle Imp is set which means he wrote from experience. When on his many travels he spent some time in a leper colony, this subject is also touched on in the story.
D.H. Lawrence was born on September 11, 1885 in Nottinghamshire, the son of a coalminer. His mother was a schoolteacher. This difference in social status between his parents provided Lawrence with motif for lots of his fiction including The Rocking Horse Winner. Most of his writing focuses on the emotional experiences of the characters and most of these experiences are written from life. The Rocking Horse Winner is no exception as Lawrence was always short of money.
These stories are both fables though they are not classic fables because they don’t contain animals with human characteristics. They both have morals even if at some points they are unclear. They are both stories designed to teach us a lesson and entertain us at the same time.
The Bottle Imp isn’t a very entertaining story as it is very long and drawn out. Every time you think it is going to end Stevenson adds another bit. I think this was an attempt at creating suspense but in the end you just lose interest in the story. This is particularly clear when they are trying to sell the bottle abroad and it keeps getting back to them. Also the moral of this story is fairly unclear and could be several things depending on the way you interpret the story.
The ending of the story is very weak and more reminiscent of a fairy tale than a fable. It is a very typical ‘they live happily ever after’ ending which is seen in most fairy tales. This makes the story less serious. The characters aren’t very believable either. Keawe is unbelievably good and naï¿½ve at the beginning of the story he is very easily tricked into buying the bottle, and is described as, “poor, brave, and active; he could read and write like a schoolmaster; he was a first rate mariner besides…” this description tells us of a person who couldn’t be real because it is human nature to have flaws. Keawe also marries Kokua without even knowing her, which is a very strange thing to do because even in Stevenson’s time there was a period of courtship before people were married. Unbelievable characters make the story very hard to relate to.
Any suspense there would have been in the story is lost in the length and countless unnecessary events such as the whole affair with Lopaka and the numerous occasions of the bottle changing hands. The only real surprise comes when he gets leprosy because you start to think his life will be great forever when this happens and his world falls apart.
Stevenson writes as if he is speaking to you, which is very good for a fable and is the only entertaining thing about the story. He starts the story by saying, “There was a man of the Island of Hawaii, whom I shall call Keawe; for the truth is, he still lives, and his name must be kept secret…” this makes you feel as if he is addressing you directly. This would be a very good story for telling by word of mouth rather than the written word. Writers like Jack Kerouac and Ray Bradbury used this style a lot in the 50’s.
I think The Rocking Horse Winner is a very entertaining story because you can relate to the characters more. Paul is very innocent and young, all he is trying to do is help his Mum and he is being exploited. This happens very often in the real world so we can empathise with him. The situation in which the story is set is very normal so you can understand what is happening. Also the want of money and the misuse of it are very commonplace so we can still relate to it even almost one hundred years after it was written.
The suspense builds slowly and draws you into the story by giving you slight hints that something bad is going to happen but not telling you what. “He became wild-eyed and strange, as if something were going to explode in him.” This is one of the hints we are given in the story to suggest that it is all leading to something big. The ending is a surprise in this story, as you don’t think he could die because he is good but he does. It is also surprising when Paul’s mother spends the money on furnishings instead of paying off her debts.
Lawrence leaves gaps in the narrative to build suspense, this is particularly clear when the narrative jumps a whole section between the conversation he has with his mother about luck and uncle Oscar finding out about the money he is winning on the races. Most of the characters in the story are good people who have just made a mistake or are doing something that they don’t think is bad but is like Uncle Oscar and Bassett. This is the nice thing about the story; it could happen to anybody.
The Bottle Imp doesn’t have that much impact because the ending is soft and the characters don’t get what they deserve. The bottle however does have a very big impact on their lives for a long time but it seems as if the effect of the bottle disappears after it is sold to the sailor.
There are several messages the writer wishes to get across in this story including, ‘don’t bite off more than you can chew’, ‘don’t play with fire, you’ll get your fingers burnt’, ‘greed is the root of all evil’, ‘take the good with the bad’, ‘don’t risk what you have for what you want’, ‘don’t mess with the devil’, and ‘money can’t buy you love’. All these morals are shown in the story and Stevenson could have meant to portray any of them. Some people however would argue that there is no moral because the protagonist wins. This is also a valid point and shows us that Stevenson obviously didn’t take the point he was trying to make very seriously. It would have had much more impact if after they had sold the bottle they found that they were domed to an eternity of hell anyway.
In The Rocking Horse Winner the fantastical element has a great effect on only one character throughout most of the story. Paul becomes more and more lost in trying to find out which horse is going to win and the burden of the money ways down on him more and more. This sense of struggle going on inside a person whilst everyone else goes on as normal is seen in the epic tale The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien when the ring is slowly consuming Frodo. The fantastical element has relatively no effect on the rest of the characters in the story until the very end when Paul dies.
This story also has lots of messages and morals in it such as, ‘live within your means’, ‘be grateful for what you’ve got’, ‘money isn’t everything’, ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’, ‘don’t care what other people think of you’, and ‘money can’t buy you love’. These morals have a lot more conviction in this story because the protagonist loses and people get their ‘just deserts’. Lawrence obviously fells very strongly about this especially because he was always short of money and because of this the story is more conclusive.
I think The Rocking Horse Winner should be taken more seriously because the message is strong and has feeling behind it. In the bottle imp the message is really weak because even though they have done a bad thing they live happily ever after. I don’t think it is a very good fable either because its message is so weak. Paul however is fairly innocent and doesn’t know he is doing wrong, in fact he is not even trying to get money for himself yet he comes to a sticky end. This hits you hard as you read the story and makes you take notice of the morals.