March 3, 1997
A Comparison of the Magic in
"The Rocking-Horse Winner" and "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"
Magic arises out of the two main characters of D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner" and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Paul, in the first story, pulls out higher forces to help him decide who the winner of the next horse race will be. In the Marquez story, a nameless and elderly angel lands on earth to experience first hand the human behavior he strives to correct. The magic in the air gives these stories a feeling of suspense. They are horrifying, if not in the Stephen King horror genre. These tales encompass an undeniable amount of magic, faith, greed, vindication and misunderstanding.
Pelayo and Elisenda, in the Garcia Marquez yarn, find the soul retriever on his way to take their child to heaven, or so it is thought. The magical angel's identity had to be discovered by a neighbor of the couple because they didn't think that an angel could wind up on their land. Who would think of an angel landing? Meanwhile, Paul doesn't show when he discovers the magical power of the rocking horse he received as a gift one year. He does ride it often as Lawrence describes. The stories are bound by the fact that the magical things they discover are unbelievable at best. They often criticize Paul for his affection for a horse he should have outgrown long ago. No one would believe that the rocking-horse essentially talked to him. Although the characters in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" believe that an angel is in their presence, they have no idea what to do with him. No one had ever dealt with a spirit on this level before.
As he rocked back and forth on his rocking horse, Paul had faith in finding the winner of the next horse race. For some reason they could not explain, Paul's uncle and Bassett had faith in him to pick it. They kept making money on the young boy with faith. The boy, whose parents had no luck, also had the faith that they did not have. Sadly, his faith killed him. He wanted so much to rid the house of the voices he heard that he drove himself to death from the intense pressure he placed upon himself. When he died, he killed the voices as the spiritual world claimed the only member of the family with luck.
"A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" shows that the people in this small fan can have some level of faith without directly showing it. Although Pelayo and Elisenda lock up the angel to display him, they still believe he is an angel and cannot kill him when another offers this. They don't have the heart to club the old man to death, though he may be an inconvenience at first. Father Gonzaga doesn't necessarily believe in the angel, but the townspeople and tourists do. They wish for things even when others before them don't have their miracles exactly met.
It is hinted in the Lawrence story that Paul may have lived if he hadn't been so greedy. He wasn't full of greed like his parents, but the mysterious voices of the house drove him to greed to rid the house of them. To start with, Mother and Father in this modern fairy tale are downright rapacious. Mother has an especially insatiable wallet. Although her husband makes good money, she must have the finer things in life such as servants and the like. They pass on the ever present desire for more materialistic items to Paul. He wants to gain the love of his mother and decides that using his luck to earn money is the way to do it.
It is the greed of Pelayo and Elisenda that wind up saving the life of the elderly angel. They give him a chance to rest and start anew by the couple putting him on display as a sort of circus freak. Sadly enough this translates over to modern sitings of crucifix marked men. Many religious fanatics have to travel wide and far to see proof of their faith just like in the story. The fact that the poor couple makes money off the angel could be a testament to him being their guardian angel as opposed to the harbinger of death to their child. They continue to make money off this freak of nature until another shows up. The spider girl is just another form of greed in this story. The actual freak is probably just a costumed human trying to make money off people's stupidity.
Flaws are obvious in the main characters of each of these two stories. In "The Rocking- Horse Winner" Paul has the flaw of emulating his parents' footsteps. Because they set the example always to want more money, taking on their greed flaws him. In Garcia Marquez's tale, the simple couple have greed on their mind. When they are unable to make money, off what should be a blessing, they find him an annoyance. They share this greed in both stories and this is an undeniable flaw.
Another characteristic that joins these two stories is vindication. In the Lawrence tale, Paul gets two sorts of vindication. First, he proves to his mother, the nonbelieiver, that he is truly lucky. The curse is not on every member of the family is the unspoken statement he makes to his mother. This also makes him think in his last few moments that he has also attained the obviously missing love of his mother. Although this is probably not true since his mother is such a greedy character, seemingly incapable of love, at least Paul thinks that he has rectified a horrible relationship between mother and son. Secondly, they vindicate him in an ironic way. His death is part of his life's justification. He escapes an unhappy situation. As a blessing to his family, he earns a ton of money for his uncle, Bassett and his family (whom the money should go to upon his death). He helps them out and then gets out of the bad situation of being stuck in such a greedy, luckless family through death.
The angel also has a two-part vindication. While entrapped by his own disabilities in the chicken coop, he gets to poke fun at the naive people desperately looking for miracles by granting "consolation miracles" to his customers. These pranks entertained him while he was stuck recovering in an animal's residence that was like a miniature circus tent. After he finally recovered with dawn of spring, he took to flight. He certainly wouldn't take the child with him for fear of staying any longer. He escaped the place that did nothing but use him to move on to provide miracles to people who were worth it.
Lastly, intertwined in these two stories is a misunderstanding of the respective phenomenons. The uncle and Basset are interested mostly in winning money off the boy's talent. Uncle Oscar does appear to have some concern for the boy having fun and appears to find it engaging that the young boy is interested in a hobby of his. Bassett also seems to enjoy the boy's company, but it certainly apparent after the first few wins that both are mostly using Paul to earn money on his luck. They don't understand the mostly self-inflicted need to be lucky that Paul feels. He wants to be lucky to win the love of not just his mother, but also Oscar, Bassett and the family in general. He hides the fact that riding his wooden rocking-horse is the key to his winning and so Oscar and Bassett have little idea of what's going on. Even at his final ride, the two who share in his lucky picks assume that he got sick under normal circumstances. They don't fathom to guess that he was trying to defeat the curse of misfortune his family seemed to have an attraction to and the voices in the house which constantly pointed this fact. Of course, they thought he simply played to earn money and enjoy a hobby.
From beginning to end, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" shows how ignorant the characters are of the truth in the story. Even at first Pelayo and Elisenda can't figure out that their discovery is an angel. It even took the main characters awhile to discover that they could make much money off their find. By the end of the anecdote, the angel has become such an inconvenience that Elisenda was overjoyed to seem him recover and leave. Instead of realizing the blessings the elderly angel brought (apparently saving the child's life and creating an extra income for the couple for a couple weeks), she found him to be a pest.
These fantastical stories have many similar messages and characteristics although each of them is individual. They have the same goal of exploring the misunderstood and magical. These qualities affect the reader. The story becomes engaging as the reader joins the characters in attempting to find out the mysteries behind many of the actions. The characters get involved in the unbelievable while they try to understand things that some people simply cannot grasp in their minds. All of the characters in both tales are ignorant and naive, but this is not to say that they are stupid. They tragically cannot understand what they have with the little bit of evidence they are provided. Upon realizing that they cannot explain the unexplainable, they attempt to come with answers where the are none.
Thus when magic, faith, greed, vindication and misunderstanding come together they form two different stories. The narratives by two authors, D.H. Lawrence and Gabriel Garcia Marquez of completely different backgrounds come through with a common message. The spiritual and magical world can help and hurt humans so always understand what it is one is getting into. They continue to point out that people should never let greed get the best of them because they will miss the main point. "The Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "The Rocking-Horse Winner" offer different versions of the same idea. The reader easily receives both of their messages and certain to be forgiving of their main character's ignorance and naivety.