Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

21 Sep 2012

(Short Story) The Rocking Horse Winner by: DH Lawrence

(Reaction) No Fate But What We Make by: Antonio Conejos

The son who would be lucky but wasn't, the mother who was lucky with her son but who didn't know it. It is Paul's mother, not Paul's superhuman ability, which is the true tormentor of the Rocking Horse Winner.

Paul is painfully earnest, as seen in his constant admonitions to his uncle that all all his statements are true, honor bright.

His parents have the chance at a good life, yet they take this potential in a passive manner. The language used to describe the mother and father is diffident, as the parents are merely waiting for fortune to fall on them, But though he had good prospects, these prospects never materialised... And the mother, who had a great belief in herself, did not succeed any better, and her tastes were just as expensive.

The apparent inability to catch a break is ascribed by the mother as bad luck. Good fortune then, at least for the mother, is random; it may happen to anyone, That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money.

At first blush Paul's success may seem to be the very epitome of luck, of random chance favoring an individual again and again. Yet one must consider how Paul stumbles upon this luck. First of all this good fortune is a product of a driving passion, Paul yearns to prove to his mother that he is lucky, 'Well, anyhow', he said stoutly, 'I'm a lucky person'... The boy saw she did not believe him; or rather, that she paid no attention to his assertion. This angered him somewhere, and made him want to compel her attention.

Second is the sheer effort Paul pours into producing his luck. The young lad literally wills his good fortune into existence, one painstaking ride after another, ...he would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily. Wildly the horse careered, the waving dark hair of the boy tossed, his eyes had a strange glare in them. Certainly the most obvious sign of how much effort it is for Paul to come up with a winner is demonstrated in the final outcome of the story - the lad's death.

As such, Paul's luck is not random at all but the product of hard work. It may be argued then that Paul's luck is not luck at all (as it is not the product of chance or random occurrence) but is better described as success; success well earned. This is a central point that Paul's mother refuses to acknowledge, success is brought about by sustained effort, effort she refuses to put into any endeavour, She so wanted to be first in something, and she did not succeed, even in making sketches for drapery advertisements.

Rewards won through luck do not sate but further drive an insatiable need for more. Thus, Paul's mother, who has been lucky in that extra money has fallen into her lap thanks to some distant relative (in actuality the sum is a portion of Paul's winnings), continues to spend and spend. There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father's school, in the following autumn. The mother, despite being hard up immediately prior to the windfall of the money, doesn't waste any time in beginning to spend the amount.

Consequently, as the mother is not appeased the house is not appeased. So Uncle Oscar signed the agreement, and Paul's mother touched the whole five thousand... The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening. In the end Paul's death is for naught as even upon his passing all the family can talk about is money.


An interesting plot made very readable by two polar opposite characters, Paul and his mother. Just as with Paul there is an earnestness to Lawrence's short story, a confiding note that can be heard throughout the tale - almost like the whispers of the house which drive/ride Paul to his death.

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