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The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence

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    The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence


                The Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence is a story about a boy named Paul who can predict the winner of a horse race by “rocking” his toy horse. The family is a fairly decent family but seems to be running short on money all the time. The house literally speaks of the need of money of the family and this has gotten too much for Paul, that he’s taken responsibility in salvaging the family out of its financial troubles. His talent for predicting the outcome of horse races eventually paid off with the help of his uncle, but the more money he puts in the family, the more the house asks for more money. This cycle ultimately drains the life out of Paul, leaving the family with a good amount of fortune but at the expense of his own life. This paper aims to critically analyze the short story particularly its literary elements such as themes, characters, and style & symbolism.


                The short story has two major themes—Taking responsibility and the effects of being generous and greedy. In the story, two kinds of responsibility is shown, one is taking responsibility at a very young age and the other is the lack of responsibility. Taking responsibility at a young age is clearly referring to Paul taking responsibility in coming up with a solution to save the family from financial ruin. Nobody puts the burden on Paul’s shoulders, it is just that the voices he is hearing from the house is so intense that he decides to do something about the money problem. In search of a solution, Paul asks his mother why they aren’t rich, the mother’s answer is simple. “it’s because your father has no luck.” (Lawrence). This reply from his mother prompted Paul to associate luck with money and his search became a little more specific—he needs to find luck in order to find money. The other aspect of responsibility is the lack of it. Readers are informed that the parents of Paul are not doing well financially. “The mother had a small income and the father had a small income.” (Lawrence). The family should have no money problems when we come to think of it. They live fairly decent lives, they are able to afford a nice enough house with a garden, and they are able to afford the services of servants. The problem with them is their lifestyle makes them spend more in an attempt to be in par with the other social families in their area. The mother and father feels they need to “keep up” with the social ladder. If Paul’s parents were really responsible, they should not be thinking about keeping up with the social race, so to speak, and just focus on the basic necessities of the family like food and education for the children. The other theme, which is the effects of being generous and greedy is highlighted by the characters of Paul and his mother. Paul is generous because he is the one who has come up with the solution in how to save the family’s financial woes. It’s impossible to tell what the exact age of Paul is, but it is just safe to say that he is too young to have any part in dealing family problems. And though he has outgrown his rocking horse, he is still not old enough to take the burden in ensuring the family’s survival. On the other hand, Paul’s mother represents greed. When Paul arranged for his Uncle to give 5,000 pounds to his mother on a thousand pound per year basis, the mother asks for the whole thing to be given at once. She spent most of the money on luxurious things.


                There are three major characters in the story; Paul, his mother Hester, and Uncle Oscar. Paul is the main protagonist of the story, what happens to him in the end makes the short story somewhat of a tragedy, but not as Aristotle has defined it. Paul is innocent and kind. His only intention is be lucky enough in order to get enough money to give to his mother. He is unaware of the dangers of gambling but since he is almost always sure of the winning horse, it does not seem that much of a danger. Hester is the mother of Paul and the brother of Uncle Oscar. She is described as a beautiful woman but her luck, or rather the lack of it, has made it’s mark on her face. “The failure made deep lines come into her face.” (Lawrence). She is also a greedy woman, instead of conserving the money given to her by Paul, she asks the lawyer to give all the money at once. Though the narrator tells us that she does not love her kids, she shows concern for Paul, especially when Paul was becoming obsessed with winning every single race. Uncle Oscar’s only impression to the audience is that he does not really care about the welfare of Paul’s family, all he cares about is his own. If he somehow showed concern, it is to ultimately protect his own.


                D.H. Lawrence’s style is not typical English literature, at least during his time. It swerves (a little) away from the realistic style of early 20th century English literature. “Un-realistic” elements like Paul being able to tell the winning horse and the house literally breaking down to a speech makes this story interesting and adds a twist to the much too common realistic short story. As far as symbolism goes, the rocking horse symbolizes the family’s hope. The rocking horse tells Paul what horse is going to win and therefore being the key element in the family’ bid to have a better life. Rocking the horse also symbolizes the rigorous task one must take in order to get results. If Paul does not rock the horse actively, it would not give the name of the winning horse.


                The Rocking-Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence’s three major literary elements are themes, characters, style and symbolism. Each element is important in understanding the short story. Themes tell us morals of the story, characters let us take an in-depth look at the people involved, and style & symbol shows the author’s signature through his or her work.

    Works Cited

    Lawrence, D.H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” 2005. Dowse Fiction. 16 February 2009.



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    What is Lawrence's The Rocking-Horse Winner an allegory for?
    In an ironic twist, Paul becomes a Christ-like figure who does not rise from the dead after three days, but rather, dies after three days of being sick. While Christ's death and resurrection signify moral redemption for Christians, Paul's death doesn't offer any kind of redemption.
    Why did Lawrence wrote The Rocking-Horse Winner?
    At the time Lawrence was writing about the alienated relationship between mother and child in “The Rocking-Horse Winner,” the English family was undergoing a transformation: married couples were having fewer babies than ever before.

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