Overview: "The Rocking-Horse Winner"
D. H. Lawrence's The Rocking-Horse Winner was first published in 1926 in Harper's Bazaar magazine. It was published again that same year in a collection that was put together by Lady Cynthia Asquith, a friend of Lawrence's. Some critics have argued that the characters in the story are modeled after Asquith and her autistic son. Lawrence's works are known for their explorations of human nature through frank discussions of sex, psychology and religion. Lawrence's later short stories, such as The Rocking-Horse Winner, display a movement toward fabulation and satire as opposed to his earlier short fiction, which reflected more the traditional nineteenth-century English short storyanecdotal, or tales of adventure. The Rocking-Horse Winner is a sardonic tale employing devices of the fairy tale and a mockingly detached tone to moralize on the value of love and the dangers of money. In The Rocking-Horse Winner and other later stories, Lawrence moved beyond the strictures of realism and encompassed a broader range of styles and subjects than in his earlier work. Critics view The Rocking-Horse Winner as an example of Lawrence's most accomplished writing. Lawrence is considered a modernist, a member of a literary school opposed to the literary conventions of nineteenth-century morality, taste, and tradition. Evident in The Rocking-Horse Winner is Lawrence's distain for conspicuous consumption, crass materialism, and an emotionlly distant style of parenting popularly thought to exist in England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus, the story is considered by many to be an example of modernist prose.
"The Rocking-Horse Winner" is the story of a boy's gift for picking the winners in horse races. An omniscient narrator relates the tale of a boy whose family is always short of money. His mother is incapable of showing love and is obsessed with the status that material wealth can provide. Her son is acutely aware of his mother's desire for money, and he is motivated to take action. He wants to help her, but he also wants to silence the voice that haunts him, the voice of the house itself whispering, "There must be more money! There must be more money!" Paul questions his mother about the family's circumstances. When he asks her why they do not have a car and why they are the "poor members of the family," she responds "it's because your father has no luck." Dissatisfied with her answer, the boy presses her for an explanation of what makes one person lucky and another unlucky. Finally, he declares that he knows himself to be lucky because God told him so. With the help of Basset the gardener and his mother's brother Oscar, Paul sets out to prove his brazen assertion true by picking the winners in horse races. While riding on his rocking horse, Paul envisions the winners. Paul proves to be unnaturally talented at divining the winners of the races and before too long he has saved a considerable sum of money. When his uncle asks him what he plans to do with the money he reveals that he wants to give it to his mother. He hopes that his contribution will bring her luck and make the house stop whispering. Because Paul wants to keep his success at betting a secret, Paul arranges through his uncle to give his mother a anonymous gift of a thousand pounds each year for five years. His gift does not have the intended effect, however. Instead of being delighted when she opens the envelope on her birthday, Paul's mother is indifferent, "her voice cold and absent." Desperate to please her, the boy agrees to let his mother have the whole five thousand at once. Instead of quieting the voices in house, Paul's generous gift causes the voices to go "mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening." Although his mother finally can afford some of the fine things she has been craving, like fresh flowers and private school for Paul, the voices just...
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