Th Rocking Horse Winner by D.H.Lawrence

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  • Created by: Amberley
  • Created on: 17-04-13 11:09

Story chronology

Rocking Horse Winner:

Exposition (establishes setting + characters) - Unhappy family/ mother especially.

Inciting incident (introduces conflict; sets plot in motion; disrupts pattern) - Conversation with Paul - mother tells him about lack of luck.

Rising action (events leading to climax) - Paul rides his horse + wins. Uncle in on plot.

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Story Chronology continued...

Climax/ turning point/ key moment (a big change takes place; hero learns something new; the conflict can be addressed; new setting/ person introduced) - Mother receives birthday gift - but not enough.

Falling action (events leading to the final suspense) - Paul over-exerts himself to try satisfy mother's greed.

Final suspense (hero tested one last time) - Paul successfully bets on Derby.

Resolution (events after the conflict has been resolved) - Paul dies: Hester is lucky/ unlucky.

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Narrative Voice

- 3rd person narrative

- At the beginning deliberately using language and tone of a fairy story - 'There was a woman who was beautiful...' - uses the fairy-story convention of the beautiful woman who has some kind of deep problem.

- The narrator does not tell us the womans name (until the very end) further emphasises this fairy-story effect. -seems to present her as a type and general characteristic rather than a 3 dimensional person. Lawrence presents her as a flat character.

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Narrative voice continued...

- gives the narrative voice colloquial characteristics - 'no, not for anybody' - seems to position reader/ listener as a child being told a story.

- In fairy stories we expect an omniscient narrator, which this story has - narrator claims to know the deepest truths of the characters - 'at the centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love' - straightforwardly and directly told to the reader. - Tone seems judgemental and the reader is left with no room for doubt.

- Some of the story told from mother's point of view: she is the focaliser of the story - 'Only she herself knew that at the centre of her heart...' - reinforces the authority of the narrative voice.

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Lawrence, a controversial writer concerned with...

- The dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation.

- Emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.

- The fundamental mystery of life and being.

-' be a good animal, true to your instincts'

-' you live by what you thrill to, and there's the end of it'

-' one must learn to love, and go through a good deal of suffering to get to it, and the journey is always towards the other soul'

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Figures of speech

- Anaphora Behind the shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll's house, a voice would start whispering: "There must be more money! There must be more money!" - Alliteration And yet the voices in the house . . . simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: "There must be more money!

- His eyes blazed at her for one strange and senselesssecond, as he ceased urging his wooden horse.

- Metaphor The child had never been to a race-meeting before, and his eyes were blue fire.
Comparison of the eyes to fire

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Figures of speech continued...

It came whispering from the springs of the still-swaying rocking-horse, and even the horse, bending his wooden, champing head, heard it. The big doll, sitting so pink and smirking in her new pram, could hear it quite plainly, and seemed to be smirking all the more self-consciously because of it.
Comparison of the rocking horse and doll to living beings

Oxymoron It was a soundless noise, yet rushing and powerful.

Simile The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening.
Comparison of the voices to frogs

He neither slept nor regained consciousness, and his eyes were like blue stones.
Comparison of the Paul's eyes to stones

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Tragic Irony and Climax

Tragic Irony - .......Paul picks the winning horse in the Epsom Derby but loses his life. The fortune he had amassed, eighty thousand pounds (the equivalent of millions of dollars today), thus became his misfortune.

Climax - .......The climax occurs when Paul falls off his rocking horse after suffering a seizure that leads to his death.

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.......In her preoccupation with material things, Hester neglects to provide Paul the love he needs to develop into a normal, mentally stable child.

Faulty Sense of Values

.......Hester makes stylish living the chief goal of her marriage. Consequently, her relationship with her husband and the care and nurture of her children—in particular, Paul—stagnate. Whenever money becomes available, she spends beyond her means. Though she and her husband rear their children in a "pleasant house" with servants and a nurse, they seem to regard them as objects for display, like the furnishings in the home. Hester's spending and indebtedness create anxiety that haunts the house and personifies itself by repeatedly whispering the phrase: "There must be more money."

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Themes continued...


.......Lust for material objects, stylish living, and money so obsesses Paul's mother that she neglects Paul and his sisters. Paul then "inherits" her obsession. But he wants to win money for his mother, not for himself, in order to prove that he has the luck that his father lacks. Having luck and money will make him lovable to his mother, he apparently believes, and silence the house voices. When he discovers that the five thousand pounds he sets aside for her is not enough to achieve his goals, he becomes obsessed with winning more. His mania ultimately kills him.


.......Oscar Creswell acknowledges that Paul's wagering makes him nervous. But rather than take steps to stop Paul, he encourages him and asks for tips on winning horses. When Paul lies deathly ill muttering the name of his pick for the Derby, Oscar runs off "in spite of himself" and places a bet on the horse at fourteen to one odds.

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Themes finished


.......Paul rides his rocking horse like a knight on a quest. He seeks a great prize, luck, that will enable him to win money wagering on horses. His winnings will free his mother from a great monster, indebtedness, that consumes all of her attention. Once free, she will be able to turn her attention to Paul and give him the greatest prize of all: love.


.......In the first paragraph of the story, the narrator says Hester does not love her children. Nevertheless, outwardly she pretends to love them, and people say, "She is a good mother. She adores her children."

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About the story

“The Rocking-Horse Winner” is a short story that incorporates elements of the fable, the fantasy, and the fairy tale. Like a fable, it presents a moral (although it does so subtly, without preachment). Like a fantasy, it presents chimerical events (the boy’s ability to foretell the winners of horse races, the whispering house). Like a fairy tale, it sets the scene with simple words like those in a Mother Goose story: “There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust. She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. . . . There were a boy and two little girls. They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.”

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The action takes place in England in the years just after the First World War. The places include a home in an unidentified locale in or near London; London's Richmond Park; a car traveling to a home in Hampshire County, southwest of London; and Lincoln Racecourse in Lincoln, Lincolnshire. The narrator mentions major races in England well known to readers of the story when it first appeared in 1926. These races included the Grand National Handicap Steeplechase at the Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool; the Royal Ascot at Windsor, west of London; the Epsom Derby at Epsom Downs in Surrey, southeast of London; the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster in South Yorkshire; and the Lincoln, at Lincoln Racecourse in Lincoln, Lincolnshire.

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Paul: Boy who knows that his mother does not love him or his sisters even though she outwardly shows affection and treats her children kindly. After Paul receives a rocking horse one Christmas, he rides it often and develops a strange intuitive power that enables him to correctly predict the winners of horses races. At racetracks, he wins thousands of pounds that he sets aside to defray his mother’s debts.


Hester: Paul’s mother. She becomes dissatisfied with her marriage after her husband fails to make enough money to support the elegant lifestyle that has put the family deep in debt.

Paul’s Father: Man who works in town and has promising prospects that never seem to materialize because, as his wife says, he is unlucky.

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Characters continued...

Bassett: The family gardener. He initiates Paul into the world of horse racing, and they becoming betting partners.


Oscar Creswell: Paul’s uncle and his mother’s sister. He provides Paul the money that the boy uses to make his first successful bet.

Miss Wilmot: The family nurse.

Paul’s Siblings: Two younger sisters, one named Joan and the other unidentified by name.

Chief Artist: Woman who sketches drawings for newspaper advertisements placed by drapers. Hester works for her to make extra money.

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Nonverbal communication

Much of the communication in the story comes through the eyes. For example, on the question of whether the mother loves her children, the narrator says in the first paragraph that "only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes." Regarding the house voices, the narrator says, "They would look into each other's eyes, to see if they had all heard. And each one saw in the eyes of the other two that they too had heard." After Paul tells his mother early in the story that he is lucky, the narrator says, "The boy saw she did not believe him; or rather, that she paid no attention to his assertion." In describing Paul, the narrator frequently focuses on the boy's eyes to communicate a mood or a meaning, as in these passages:

1 - The boy watched her [his mother] with unsure eyes.

2 - Wildly the horse careered, the waving dark hair of the boy tossed, his eyes had a strange glare in them.

3 - But Paul only gave a blue glare from his big, rather close-set eyes.

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Point of view

D. H. Lawrence wrote the story in omniscient third-person point of view, enabling him to reveal the thoughts of the characters. The underlined words in the following sentences are examples of passages that present the thoughts of characters.

Paul's mother only made several hundreds, and she was again dissatisfied. She so wanted to be first in something, and she did not succeed, even in making sketches for drapery advertisements.

His mother had sudden strange seizures of uneasiness about him. Sometimes, for half an hour, she would feel a sudden anxiety about him that was almost anguish. She wanted to rush to him at once, and know he was safe.

She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. They looked at her coldly, as if they were finding fault with her.

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History, Critics and extra info...

History - Evident in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" is Lawrence's distain for conspicuous consumption, crass materialism, and an emotionally 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.

Style - This story also combines the supernatural elements of a fable, mainly Paul's ability to "know" the winners just by riding his rocking horse, with the serious themes of an unhappy marriage and an...

"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.

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In the short story by D. H. Lawrence, “The Rocking-Horse Winner“, young Paul has to encounter a series of misfortunate events, due to the fact that his beloved ambitious mother is unworthy of the what she has and each circumstance leads him and his family to great distress. With a burden on his shoulders, he will not stop until he gets what his mother desperately desires. He takes a huge responsibility that no kid at such a young age should take. Paul not only wants to resolve the financial crisis his family has been dealing with, but also satisfy his mother’s materialistic pleasures, because his mother told him how they were “not lucky“ and he is desperately anxious to prove her wrong. The role that takes place in their lives is wrongly messing with their future and everything leads them to a devastating ending, which is Paul’s death. Some parents are not aware of how much of an influence they are to their children; in this case Hester’s parental habits and lack of self-restrain are reflected in the tragic ending of her son’s life.
Hester, Paul’s mother, doesn’t realize that her perspective of life is greatly affecting her child’s life as well. She has a rare aspect of seeing things, she believes that luck is what brings you money and that without it you won’t be wealthy. She is incapable of realizing or admitting that what would really bring you wealthy or at least a decent and stable social status, is hard work and dedication.

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Summary continued...

Nevertheless, her comprehension of this was entirely incorrect, for she believed all but this. Hester saw herself as lucky, as Lawrence states, “…a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck.”   Hester truly acknowledged the fact that she now had no luck because “She married for love,…”.

- ‘The Rocking-Horse’ is a psychological short story which tells about how a mother’s greed to have more and more money became the cause of the death of one of her own children. The mother wanted more and more, and the son exerted all his mental power to get the names of winning horses and the mental exhaustion caused his death. Mrs. Hester was beautiful and she married for love. However she was not happy in her marriage. She had three children, a boy and two girls. She did not love the children, as she thought that they had been thrust upon her. She tried her best to hide her want of love but her children felt it. They too looked upon her coldly without love. They were poor but they lived in style to keep up the superior social position that their family held. There was a feeling of poverty always. Everything in the house seemed to whisper that there must be more money.

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At last it became unbearable to Paul, her son. He learned from his mother that one could earn a lot of money if one had luck. Both his parents were unlucky with money. Suddenly something in his mind told Paul that he was very lucky. Like children in general, Paul was very imaginative. He thought his rocking horse could take him where there was luck. He talked to Bassett, their gardener and collected the names of the horses taking part in the races. He rode on his rocking horse and rocked very furiously. He asked his horse to take him where there was luck. At the end of his imaginary journey the name of the winning horse would flash into his mind. Sometimes he would be sure of the horse that would win and sometimes he was not. He betted on the horse when he was sure and won often. Bassett was his partner. He earned quite a lot of money this way up to three hundred and twenty pounds.
His uncle, Oscar Creswell was also interested in the horse race. He came to know what Paul did. He did not believe at first, but out of curiosity he also became a partner and betted some money on a horse called Daffodil. Paul had got the intuition that Daffodil was going to win. Daffodil came first and they earned quite a lot of money. Paul made a gift of five thousand pounds to his mother secretly through a lawyer. The lawyer was to give a gift of one thousand pounds to his mother on every birthday for five years and say that a rich relative had asked him to do so.

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End of summary!

Paul’s mother was not very happy at it and wanted the whole sum of five thousand pounds at a time. Paul and his uncle gave the money to her. After she got the money, the whisper in the house that there must be more and more money became fiercer and fiercer.

There was a great sense of poverty in the house which became intolerable. Paul tried very hard to know the names of the winning horses but he failed several times. Still he tried harder and harder to know the name of the winning horse for the great race, Derby. He rode very furiously on the rocking horse till the time his mother came back from a party in the town and found him rocking so. He came down at last from the horse and lay on the ground. He was unconscious with brain fever. But he shouted, as if in a delirium, the name of the horse Malabar. Bassett played a thousand pounds on Malabar in the Derby. Malabar came first and Paul got seventy thousand pounds. Mrs. Hester became richer by more than eighty thousand pounds. But Paul died in the night as he had exerted too much of his mental energies and will, and his brain fever became fatal. Paul thus died to satisfy his mother who could never be satisfied.

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