The Rocking-Horse Winner

The Rocking-Horse Winner is a mildly satirical short story set in London after the First World War. The story revolves around Paul, a young boy who feels unloved by his mother and is constantly trying to win her approval—but in vain. Paul receives a rocking horse as a gift and realizes that he can predict horse race winners by rocking it vigorously. The story has a tragic and twisted ending—which is not uncommon for writer DH Lawrence’s novels.

Post WWI poverty

Paul’s family is in deep debt after the First World War has taken its toll on the country of England. While his father is a hard worker, he does not bring in enough money to satisfy the expensive tastes of the latter’s wife. Because of this, Paul’s mother resents her husband and makes it clear that she wants more monetary benefits out of life. Paul’s mother also favours his sisters more than him—despite his attempts to win her much needed approval. This setting leads to the plot of the story and how Paul fits into it.

The plot surrounding Paul and his family

At this point, Paul receives a rocking-horse as a gift. He quickly finds out that by rocking it back and forth as quickly as possible, he falls into a trance-like state and receives the names of horse race winners. He borrows money from his uncle and places the first bet—and wins! After more bets, he starts to bring in a lot of money and helps his family pay off their debt. This of course wins approval from his mother, but at a cost. Paul dies in the end because of all his vigorous rocking.

The point of DH Lawrence’s story

So ultimately Paul gains his mother’s love and approval even though it costs him his life. This is a bit of a twisted ending, but such are many of DH Lawrence’s stories. We can perhaps gain some insight into Lawrence’s own issues with his family through this story. Writers often use their own emotional experiences to portray their characters as symbols.

Paul’s mother is superficial and a difficult character to like in The Rocking-Horse Winner. Paul on the other hand is the hero of the story, even though he is misguided in his attempts to win his mother’s approval and love.

 

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