D. H. Lawrence’s ” The Rocking-Horse Winner” tells the tale of a family torn apart by perceptions of luck, fortune and success – of particular note is Paul, the young boy who understands, over the course of the story, that his mother does not love him or his siblings; he ends up coping with that (and his increasing illness) by creating a system for winning horse races by riding a rocking horse for hours on end, hoping to raise money to support the family. Paul in ” The Rocking-Horse Winner” drives himself to illness and death due to the constant pressure and drive to chase money his mother’s predicament (as well as her ignorance of him) brings about. In order to gain the approval and attention of his mother, Paul becomes obsessed with making money, which ends up costing him his life.
Paul’s predicament comes about from the family’s lack of money. Money is a significant theme in the story, with the family’s mantra being ” There was never enough money.” Eventually, it is overheard that Paul whispers it while he is on the rocking horse; this is indicative of him picking up the desperation and frustration his mother feels from not having enough to support her family and keep up her lifestyle. The values of the house are centered around money, and this creates a perpetual, rising anxiety that has effects on the whole family, particularly Paul. In his case, he picks up on the bug and joins his family in attempting to make money however possible. However, unlike his parents, Paul’s goal for moneymaking is much more virtuous; while his parents just want to make themselves look like high-class members of society, Paul merely wishes to give back to his family and to show his mother that he is worthy of being loved. However, that eventually fades away into blind obsession, which ends up causing his death.
Paul is an extremely kind and desperate boy, with many of his actions resulting from a need to feel important, to feel needed by his mother. It becomes clear throughout the story that Hester is much more concerned with keeping up appearances than being frugal (” There was always the grinding sense of the shortage of money, though the style was always kept up”). The attempts at raising money are a way to reach out to her and try to win her approval; he can tell she is interested in money, so he picks up a system to win it in order to impress her. He also picks up the obsession with greed, however, as it seems he is unable to stop betting. This is mostly due to the clairvoyant state he enters once he is on the rocking horse, which acts as the companion Paul does not have due to his mother’s ignorance. When Hester asks Paul whether the horse keeps him company, he responds, ” Oh yes! He’s very good, he always keeps me company, when I’m there” (Lawrence).
The eventual death of Paul comes as a result of his increasing instability, and has a tragic effect on Hester and the family. As he continues to ride the rocking horse, attempting to ‘get there,’ ” the boy grew more and more tense. He hardly heard what was spoken to him, he was very frail, and his eyes were really uncanny” (Lawrence). He had given up all pretense of caring about his health, all of his energy and dedication channeled solely to the pursuit of money. This stems back to his desire to relate to his mother; the last time he sees her, he shows her he knows how to fulfill the house’s mantra of ” There was never enough money”; ” I never told you, mother, that if I can ride my horse, and get there, then I’m absolutely sure – oh absolutely! Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky!” (Lawrence).
In conclusion, Paul in ” The Rocking Horse Winner” is a victim of obsession and a broken family unit. Paul’s desperate bid for attention from his mother leads him to start placing bets on horses, though this leads him to become obsessed and eventually manic. He is a lost little boy, wishing to be loved by his mother, and in his attempts he finds out the dangers of becoming infatuated with making sure that there was ” more money”. By the end of the story, Hester herself learns that she is ” eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad” (Lawrence). She has effectively sacrificed her son to the altar of money, and she has finally realized the costs of ignoring him. However, it is too late, and likely for the best; it is said that Paul is ” best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking horse to find a winner.”
Lawrence, D. H. ” The Rocking-Horse Winner.”