The Rocking Horse Winner is a short story by D.H.Lawrence. I have read a couple of Lawrence’s short stories before, randomly chosen, but I liked them. I was very interested to read another one and that’s how I landed on the Rocking Horse Winner. The story focuses on a middle/upper-middle-class family in England. It follows a young boy Paul whose family suffers from a financial crisis.
Hester has three children with Paul being the young son and two girls. Hester constantly feels down because she believes her family is unlucky because they don’t have enough money. One day, Hester shares her belief of not having enough money with being unlucky. It is this that sticks in Paul’s head. The problem is not luck but the habits of Paul’s parents. They seem to splurge every time they get a little extra money instead of saving it. This has created an atmosphere of anxiety in the house. The children feel it too. They feel as if the walls of their house are constantly screaming that there must be more money.
Paul starts riding the rocking horse furiously because he believes it will bring him luck. Eventually, with the help of their gardener Bassett, Paul bets on horse races and wins. Paul’s uncle Oscar joins them later too. Paul’s predictions about the winning horse are always right; he says it just comes to him. He makes enough of a fortune from the races and sends his mother some money. His mother spends the money on new furnishings and plans to send Paul to a prestigious school. Meanwhile, Paul rides his rocking-horse toy daily for hours to figure out the winner for the next horse. He completely wears himself out enough to make himself sick.
Paul’s parents are greedy and materialistic. It’s not that they don’t have any earnings; both the parents work but they seem hell-bent to live above their means. They spend money on things that aren’t necessary at that point in time and when they need it they crib about not having enough money. The kids feel this anxiety in the house about their financial situation and in Paul’s case; it becomes his burden for which he pays at the end. Even when Paul sends some money to his mother anonymously, she spends it all or plans to. They seem more worried about how society perceives them.
Even Paul to an extent is greedy but he isn’t selfish. He wants his mother’s approval just like she wants society’s approval. It’s a bit of a never-ending cycle. Hester also seems more focused on luck than hard work. She believes that their financial issues because they are unlucky. It is actually with how and when they spend their money that is a problem. Paul trusts his mother’s assessment of wanting to be lucky for more money though it doesn’t come without its burden. In the end, Paul pays the price. In a way, Paul is lucky but it is a struggle and a sacrifice not mere luck.
I have admired the writing flow of D.H.Lawrence. This story has a flow from beginning to end. It sets up the family dynamic fairly quickly. It is sad to see the young kids feel such burden and anxiety about the family’s finances and that ending was totally unexpected. I enjoyed reading this story, it’s a good one.
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