Read below our complete study guide on the short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence. Our guide covers The Rocking-Horse Winner summary, introduction, characters, themes, and analysis.


The short story, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence is one of his most appreciated works. It first appeared in July 1926 in the magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. For the second time, the short story was published in a collection gathered by Lawrence’s friend, Lady Cynthia Asquith. 

It is also assumed by some critics that Lady Asquith and her son were the models for Lawrence’s characters in the story. The short story was also composed as a film that was directed by Anthony Pelissier. It was acted by John Mills, John Howard Davies, and Valarie Hobson. Consequently, the film was released in the US and the US in 1949 and 1950.

Many critics rank the short stories of Lawrence as artistically sophisticated and well developed due to his denial of repetition and elaboration in his stories. These features are a crucial part of longer pieces of art. To elaborate, Lawrence’s work shows a shift from the traditional writing style to the abstract mode of writing. For instance, his early works were in the manner of the traditional style of anecdote and adventurous tales. Those works were in the manner of the writings of Rudyard Kipling and Louis Stevenson.

 However, his later works including The Rocking-Horse Winner are based on abstractions and psychological terms. In this story, the writer shifts from 19th-century realism and conventional rules to freer modes of expression.

As Lawrence is assumed as a modernist writer, he is the one among those who discarded the traditional value system of religion, morality, and life. In his later works, there is a frank discussion about basic human nature and its aspects. For example, sexual life, individual standards for morality, psychological aspects, and the misuse of religious beliefs are his major concerns. 

Similarly, in The Rocking-Horse Winner, Lawrence argues about the risks involved in the lust for money and the worth of love in an ironic tone. He heightens the effect of his warning through the use of gothic elements and mocking expressions.

In 19th century England, the society lacked in giving children their due care and attention. For instance, child labor and distant parenting were common and unnoticed. Lawrence, in his short story, highlights the effects of emotionally inattentive and careless parenting of a child. Likewise, the story presents Lawrence’s dismay for gross materialism and utilitarian thoughts of society. The story is supposedly the reflection of his childhood anxieties of class struggle. As his parents were working-class people, the worries associated with it impacted his life in many ways.

Lawrence weaves the short story in a supernatural theme to represent the clash between “thinking” and “feeling”. To elaborate, the adult characters in the story crave material wealth, high status, better facilities i.e. good furniture, success. They only think but do not feel. On the contrary, a child, Paul only feels love for his family. His needs are based on feelings because he does not think for himself like his adults. He tries to fulfill his family’s requirements to keep them together and earn his mother’s love. Therefore, just like the rocking horse, the whole story moves around the extremes of the difference between feeling and thinking.

Historical Context

Lawrence was a notable writer of the early 20th century. The 20th century was the era of disturbance, chaos, two world wars, isms, and negation of religion and all traditional values. Therefore, being in the early period of the era, his writing has the influence of World War-I.

 In the beginning, Lawrence was the follower of 19th-century literature of the classic writers like Hardy and George Eliot. However, after the war, he turned to the questioning side. For instance, he grew to be irritated with the predictive nature of 19th century realistic characters. Lawrence questioned the old methods of writing by shaping his characters as rebels of the conventions. For example, in his later short stories, the characters are self-willed, materialistic, perplexed about their existence, and free from social mannerism and pretensions.

The Rocking-Horse Winner Summary

The story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” begins with the introduction of a fatalist woman, Hester. She is not named in the beginning which predicts her passive nature. Without doing anything for the family, she thinks that Hester and her husband are unlucky. In the early part of their marriage, she loves her husband. However, she ceases to love him later on because she thinks that her unluckiness is due to her marriage and not professional failure.

Hester is not a good mother also. Seemingly, she is a loving and caring mother to her son and two daughters. She maintains this impression before the town people. However, in reality, Hester and her children know that she fails to give them the essential love and attention. She is only concerned about appearances. The truth about her life is entirely the opposite.

Hester lives in a beautiful house along with her three children. The lady always feels guilty about a mistake in life. Although she is not sure what mistake she has committed but tries to make up for it. She pretends to be a richer woman and keeps servants for carrying out household chores. On the contrary, the family always has money problems. They are unable to fulfill their wealthy needs.

Hester’s husband fails to materialize his business ideas successfully. Also, Hester’s struggles to add to the family’s wealth remain immaterialized. To summarize, from their description we come to know that the family is not poor in the real sense but they pretend to be wealthier than they are. This is why they spend more than their needs and most of the time they run out of money. Their only preoccupation is money, not love.

The children feel that the house whispers with concern for money. It murmurs for the need for wealth saying that “There must be more money!”. Nonetheless, the siblings do not tell each other about it. They only exchange intense glances with each other about the dread of the place. 

To clarify, there is a lack of interaction between the children also. However, their minds have the same level of hallucination as everyone in the house is aware of the lack of riches. On the other hand, their mother buys the children expensive gifts for Christmas e.g. a doll-house and a rocking-horse. This shows how materialistic Hester is, despite their middle-class social status. For her, happiness does not exist in giving love to intimate relationships. One can exchange love for money.

Hester’s son, Paul asks her about their status one day. He inquires why they do not own a car and they have to travel in public transport. She responds scornfully that they are poor because Paul’s father “has no luck”. Paul asks how some people are lucky and whether there is any relation between luck and money. He misunderstands the term “filthy lucre” (money earned with dishonesty) for “filthy lucker” (for Paul it means luck with lots of money). Hester says that lucky people make huge sums of money and are wealthier than others. For her, Paul’s father is financially weak; therefore, he is considered unlucky by Hester. 

She does not want to accept the reality that their condition is due to Hester’s huge expenditure. However, her conversation affects his psyche deeply.

Paul determines to prove himself lucky in his mother’s eyes. He tells his mother that he is fortunate. Hester does not trust his word. However, he begins to search for the claimed luck in his inner self that his mother misses in the family’s fortune. Then Paul feels that he has some sort of luck attached to his rocking horse. He sits on his horse and begins rocking it madly. He whips it to submit the rocking-horse to his will. Also, Paul desires the horse to take him to his luck and join them together. He gets overwhelmed with the idea of luck. This behavior frightens his sisters.

The mad riding of the rocking horse determines Paul’s quest for his mother’s approval. For instance, Hester is obsessed with luck to show to the world that she is wealthy. Similarly, Paul is mad for the gain of luck to achieve attention and care from his mother. Both of them are captivated by the idea of luck. However, Paul struggles to get his fortune, whereas Hester looks for a readymade one, with lots of wealth that she can spend thriftily.

With the mad riding of the rocking-horse, Paul discovers that God has showered luck upon him. He attaches his concept of luck with real horse racing. For instance, he feels that he can pick the winning horse of a race by riding his rocking horse in a trance. Therefore, he asks Bassett, the house gardener to arrange horse winning bets for Paul. He gives Bassett his share too.

One day, Oscar, Paul’s rich uncle sees him rocking the horse. He tells Paul that he is older enough to ride a rocking horse. However, Paul remains silent and after the riding session, he tells his uncle that he followed his way where he willed. Oscar asks him about the name of his rocking-horse. To this, Paul responds that its name changes with time. He says that the previous week its name was “Sansovino”. Oscar recognizes the horse because it was the winning horse in a recent race. Paul’s sister also tells Uncle Oscar about his gambling with Bassett. However, he seems unserious in the whole bet story.

Oscar then questions Paul about the horse he should bet on in the upcoming horse racing event. Paul tells him to bet on Daffodil which is an unknown horse. However, he requests him to keep this luck game hidden from his mother and everyone. Oscar assures to keep his secret. Furthermore, Paul says that he is betting three hundred pounds on the horse and two hundred pounds are reserved with him. This news shocks Oscar. Paul ensures that he has made a huge amount of money in this game and it is safe with Bassett.

When the event begins, Uncle Oscar takes Paul to the horse racing game. Paul seems to be on the seventh sky. His eyes appear to be glowing. The daffodil wins the race and Paul earns about fifteen hundred pounds. This victory further heightens Paul’s excitement and his eyes burn like a star although his rest of the body is calm. His burning and blazing eyes show that they have turned wild with greed and superiority. He can no longer control his own extreme eyes as they act opposite to his body. He also asks Uncle Oscar for his partnership on the condition that he will not disclose their secret.

When the three partners are out on a walk, Paul explains to them his struggles. He tells Oscar that when he is sure of a horse he bets his whole wealth on it. However, sometimes he is confused about a horse or even worse; often he has no idea at all. Then he remains quite reserved and plays poorly. Oscar still cannot believe it, therefore, he asks Paul to see his wealth himself. When Paul shows him the money, he gets the hint of the play. Interestingly, Paul’s betting situation depicts that he is not inherently lucky at all. It is because lucky people just make guesses and play with them. On the other hand, Paul has to face ups and downs in his luck game. Sometimes, he plays best while other times he has to lose when he has no idea of his scheme.

Furthermore, Uncle Oscar inquires Paul about the timing when he is completely sure of a bet. He responds that he simply knows it. Then Oscar accepts their partnership and they win ten thousand pounds in an upcoming event. When asked by Oscar, Paul tells that he has begun betting for his mother. Also, he will invest the earned money in his next game. Paul further explains that he has chosen this life because he wants to demolish the whispering voice of the house about the lack of money. The voice creates anxiety for him. Also, he cannot tolerate his mother’s concern for a richer life.

Paul thinks that their unstable life is due to money issues. However, they suffer because of the lack of love and attention of their mother, and their greed for material wealth. To please Hester, he decides to send her some payment indirectly. Therefore, he gives five thousand pounds to Oscar who takes the money to a bank. The bank will send her one thousand pounds every year on her birthday. Paul thinks that it is going to be the best gift for her. After receiving it, she will be happier than ever. Also, the house may stop whispering because it is still conveying the gloomy concern for wealth although Hester has begun a job.

When Hester receives her first payment letter, she does not appear to be genuinely pleased. Paul asks her if she has received any good letters but for her, it is only “moderately nice”. Contrastively, she wishes to have all the five thousand pounds together and visits the bank for the purpose. Therefore, on Oscar’s suggestion Paul decides to give her the whole amount together. Hester’s situation depicts that there is no satisfying limit for greed. It always leaves space for more and more.

Upon getting the amount, Hester spends it all on new furniture and a tutor for Paul to get admission to a highly paid school. She does not pay off the debts but fulfills her materialistic desires only. Therefore, the house begins to whisper more and wildly. It becomes unbearable for Paul. Consequently, he rides the rocking horse more and more in a speedy spin. He also creates severe trance in which he is unable to grasp productive guesses. As a result, he loses most of his bets and falls into a number of failures. His physical condition deteriorates and his eyes seem as if they will burst soon.

When Hester looks at the wildness in Paul’s eyes, she suggests him to go to the seaside for some refreshment. She is worried because he has intensely involved himself in horse racing. However, he turns down her concern saying that he is normal. He reassures Hester that she does not need to worry about him. Furthermore, Paul explains that he cannot leave the house before his next grand horsing race. His denial of leaving the house also depicts Paul’s attachment with his rocking-horse. As he grows, his mother shifts him from nursery to his bedroom. Paul protests to have his rocking horse shifted with him. Though, Hester is resistant upon the decision because Paul is too old for a toy horse now. However, he says that he wants to keep it as his companion unless he gets himself a real horse.

Paul becomes nervous and weird day by day. As the Derby (grand horsing race) approaches, Paul grows seriously concerned about it. His mother is upset about him but she cannot control his blind pursuit for luck anymore. This too is because of Hester’s quest for more money and her unending demands. Before the Derby, Hester goes to attend a town party leaving children at home. However, she is remarkably concerned for Paul and calls the nanny to have a look over him. 

The woman asks Hester if she should check him in the room but she refuses to do that. For instance, Hester wants to see him herself after going home. When she reaches home, she overhears violent noise coming from his room. Upon entering, she witnesses Paul rocking his horse furiously and calling the name of the winning horse in an extreme trance. After a while, he falls on the floor and goes unconscious.

After some time, Paul’s physical condition is unstable. Hester is really worried about him. At this critical stage, we see in Hester a caring mother but it is too late for her love. She also thinks that her heart has turned into a stone. Furthermore, Bassett brings the news that Paul has won the bet. He informs him that Malabar won the race and earned them about eighty thousand pounds. Then Paul questions about his being lucky and seeks for his mother’s approval. He also reveals to Hester that by riding the rocking-horse violently he becomes fortunate. As an answer, she feels quite sorry that she was unaware of his condition and struggles. However, it is too late and Paul passes away at night.

In the end, Oscar tells Paul’s mother about gambling. He says that she has earned a big sum of 80,000 pounds in replacement for her son’s death. It is better for her and her son also because he did everything for Hester but she demanded more. Therefore, he is better dead than alive rocking his toy horse in dread and fury.

Themes in The Rocking-Horse Winner

Class Conflict

Lawrence, in a complex interwoven relationship between mother and son, depicts the economic standing of the people of his society. He presents how people are concerned with the idea of luck and money. For instance, one of the major subjects of traditional 19th-century life was marrying for social status. Lawrence highlights the effect of a failed marital relationship on family life. For example, Hester marries for money and social class. However, her husband is unable to earn more than their economic class. On the other hand, Hester has to pretend to be a wealthy woman living a luxurious life. When she does not get enough money in hand, she begins complaining about her husband’s luck rather than blaming herself.

In her love for materialism, Hester forgets about her children and husband. She only cares about the external world. For instance, she wants her neighbors and town people to acknowledge her as a good mother and wife. However, she knows that she is not. Hester attends lavish parties and events held in the town to pretend that she is a sophisticated wealthy woman. She also keeps working people at her house to look after her children and run chores. After all the expenses, when they run out of money, she begins complaining about their luck without struggling for it.

Hard Work and Luck Relationship

To continue the above discussion, Hester believes that luck is what brings riches. For example, she considers herself unlucky because she has married an unlucky man whose ideas fail to embrace reality. Whatever he does, he lacks to find any success. It is because Hester has made her concept of luck that it is what “causes you to have money”. She thinks that lucky people do not fear the loss or gain of wealth. They are already lucky; therefore, whatever they do they will end in material success.

The main flaw in Hester’s concept of luck is that she complains about being unlucky without working for her success. Though, she works somewhere that earns her a little amount of money. However, she is not content with it because it does not match her expenditure. Instead of working hard or cutting in her expenses, she blames others for her situation. This materialism becomes poisonous for her child, Paul’s mind and ruins him eternally.

Paul does not believe in blind complaints about luck like Hester. On the contrary, he begins to prove his luck before his mother with his hard work. He tries his luck in his mother’s gift, the rocking-horse. With a strong belief in himself, he succeeds to some extent. For instance, he struggles hard to ride his rocking horse and get into a wild feeling. In this condition, he only feels his inner soul and listens to whatever it says. With this method, Paul begins gambling in which he bets on different horses in races. Through this, he earns a lot but not for himself. 

His only desire is to satisfy his mother’s moans and stop the house from whispering about their disability to earn more money. He incorporates his mother’s idea of luck in himself. Also, he tries to free his family from the emotional torture of social struggle.

Although his efforts are also a waste of energy and hard work, he does not sit and complain. Paul is paid for his extreme physical torture and his madness for work to find luck. Through this, he gains an enormous amount of wealth but no mental and emotional satisfaction. In the end, he turns out to be quite unlucky because in his useless struggle for the material wealth he breathes his last. Suppose, if he were fortunate, he would have bet any horse without thinking once and he would have won it. On the contrary, he passes through extreme physical torture to come to know about the winning horse. Otherwise, his luck simply fades away and he badly loses. His gains are not due to his luck but because of his sacrifice and hard work. Eventually, he pays for all of those riches.

Greed for Material World

The story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” revolves around the theme of greed. To clarify, greed for wealth rests in the concept of approval. For example, Hester’s financial status does not coincide with her neighbors’ conditions. Therefore, she tries to rise to their level and give the impression that she is as wealthy as they are. The problem arises when her finances do not allow her to surpass her status. To seek their approval, she develops huge greed for wealth. This impacts her family life also. For instance, she begins to dislike her husband and ignore the children.

In their mother’s quest for materialism, Paul and his sisters also develop a psyche that feels the need for money. For example, they listen to the whispers of their house urging the need for more money. However, when Paul finds a way to earn more money through his luck, the whispers do not end even then. On the other hand, they increase day by day because his mother is not yet satisfied with the huge amount of money. She spends it on new furniture and a private tutor for Paul’s admission to a prestigious school. Both of these are material needs that are fulfilled for the approval of others, not for self-comfort.

To elaborate, Paul is also greedy but his greed is selfless. He is only greedy for his mother’s approval. He does not care about the material world. Therefore, he commits harsh torture on himself and also whips his rocking horse in a mad trance to find his luck. After achieving his goal, he asks his mother if he is lucky. He looks for satisfaction in her eyes. However, she remains selfish until the end.

Family Relationship

In this story, Lawrence describes struggling family relationships that suffer due to material means. It also shows a complex mother-son relationship that can be psychologically termed as the oedipal complex. For example, Paul’s father is totally out of the story, he goes unnamed that depicts his passive character. However his mother, Hester quite actively takes part in the race of materialism and utilitarianism leaving behind her responsibilities towards her family. To seek acceptance from the material world, she neglects the fact that she is a mother. As a mother, her priority should be her children and husband. On the contrary, she counts her wealth and complains to get more.

Her child, Paul craves for his mother’s love and attention. For this purpose, he is ready to surpass any level of hard work to achieve her assurance. As she says that they are unlucky, Paul begins to seek his luck one way or the other just to achieve his mother’s love. In the end, he even loses his life in this struggle. Nevertheless, he nearly succeeds in gaining Hester’s attention and concern for him.


Anxiety is the recurring motif in “The Rocking-Horse Winner”. All the characters in the story are in some kind of anxiety, some for love while others for riches. For example, the children overhear the anxious whispers of the house desiring for a better financial position. Similarly, Hester is also anxious about her social status and craves for more money to spend more. However, her grievance and anxiety do not yield her material success. Towards the end, she shows anxiety for her son but it is useless then.

On the other hand, the protagonist is also anxious about his mother’s concern for luck. In this quest, he turns himself into a gambler of luck and earns more for her. However, she does not give him the approval for it, and in this anxiety, he struggles more. In his struggle, he becomes more anxious as the story moves forward. Over time, the voices in the house become more frantic increasing his torture. Eventually, he loses his life.

Anxiety in the story is weird and dreadful. It makes a separation between the characters. They feel the dread of the environment but do not communicate about their anxieties and fears. In the end, the anxiety changes to love and mother care, however, it does not end in true feelings and happiness.

Gender Roles

There are confusing gender roles in the story “The Rocking-Horse Winner”. For example, Hester is somehow an unconventional woman who is the dominant figure of the house. In her contrast, her husband is never discussed. She is always concerned about material life, appearances, household activities, school admission for children, and other financial needs. These responsibilities are commonly taken by men but here she is the one to think about it. However, she is a conventional lady in terms of dependence upon her husband, Uncle Oscar, and Paul. She never achieves her financial freedom from the men.

Similarly, Paul observes conflicting approaches to gender roles from his childhood. For example, his father is considered an unlucky and failed person by Hester. On the contrary, his mother carries on different male roles and has a dominant voice. She has a hard belief in luck. As a result, Paul grows up believing in fate like his mother. He also thinks that money earns happiness. He wants to give that happiness to his mother.

The Rocking-Horse Winner Characters Analysis


Paul is one of the three children and the only son of Hester, a materialistic woman. He is the protagonist of “The Rocking-Horse Winner”. Paul’s specification is his intense blue eyes that turn his desires to a wild extent. He is a small child but his emotions and desires are big enough to be handled by his physique. For instance, he is aware of the fact that his mother loves herself only. She doesn’t love her children and only yearns for more wealth. Her obsession with financial gains destroys her home. She strongly believes in luck but her idea of luck is the one that yields more wealth.

This idea of luck becomes a reason for his demise. Though, he is small enough for big thoughts and is a boy who needs toys for his Christmas gift. However, he chooses his manhood over childhood. He wants to win his mother and provide her luxuries. In a way, Paul longs for replacing his father to earn his mother’s love instead. For this purpose, he struggles to change his fate and become lucky without waiting for his adult age. He rides his rocking horse at a violent speed. Thus, in half-consciousness, he predicts future horsing races.

With his efforts, Paul earns a huge sum of money and hands it over to his mother. She, instead of being happy, demands more. This further depresses Paul and he increases his useless toil. In every way, he is insistent upon fulfilling his mother’s wishes to gain attention from her. In the end, he transforms into a supernatural being with burning eyes and inhuman behavior. This state does not support his innocent soul and tender body. Therefore, it takes him away from this mode of being into nothingness.

In the whole story, Paul seems the only character to have true feelings. He cares for his mother and also wants to stop the house from murmuring about the lack of money. He also helps his uncle and the gardener by giving them a partnership in his gambling. He is eager to be called “lucky” by his mother. He also wants to compensate for the problems of his family. However, he is too tender for taking the responsibilities of the household and cannot take the role of his father at this stage. Therefore, he fails in the quest for a mature mode of existence at this age.


Hester is one of the main characters and the protagonist’s mother. She is a selfish woman and craves for a luxurious life despite her middle-class social standing. She looks for the appreciation of those above her status. When she is unable to fulfill her extravagant desires to gain more and more, she becomes agitated. For instance, Hester begins despising her husband and luck for not providing her with bundles of money. She simply blames luck saying that they are unlucky. She explains that their marriage is a failed one in terms of fortune.

Hester remains unnamed for a major part of the story. She is only described to the readers as a “mother” and a “woman”. This shows her unimportant status as a woman in society. She remains in this identity crisis throughout the story. That is why she longs for an upright social status among other people. She wants an identity different from the traditional concept of female roles.

Likewise, Hester is not a devoted and caring mother. She is only concerned about appearances. Her children recognize her as a “lack”. It means that she only thinks about how others perceive her rather than true feelings. Hester and the children know that she is not a good mother and a devoted wife. However, she does not want the people to perceive her as a failed mom. She is cold and indifferent towards her children while Paul yearns for her love. For her love, he goes to such extremes that lead to his destruction. We can say that a materialistic mother becomes death for her child.

She does not live in extreme poverty. Her family has an otherwise stable life if she reduces her extravagant spending. She is not willing to give up on her pretentious wealth. However, in the end, Hester’s heart melts for her son but the time is gone. Again it is unclear whether she genuinely cares for Paul or is guilty about her “luck”. This luck trap takes her son’s life.

Oscar Cresswell

 Oscar is Paul’s wealthy uncle who lives a luxurious life. He is perhaps an inspiration for Hester also. Due to this materialistic race, she puts her family in trouble. Oscar allegedly cares for Paul and asks him to stop riding his rocking horse. However, he joins him when he comes to know about the seriousness of the matter.

Oscar is  somewhat a confusing figure. It is because he sometimes seems to care about his nephew while other times his greed overcomes him. For example, in the beginning, he humors Paul’s betting game and appears to be a liberal person. On the other hand, he is also anxious that gambling may ruin his life and it is not a better thought. Despite the knowledge, he does not forbid Paul and lets him tread towards death.

Moreover, he is a greedy person who values material wealth over relationships. For instance, he even takes his tip share while Paul has his last time. He also advises Paul to send some money from the games to his mother. He only uses Paul’s luck and abilities to his advantage. However, when he is dead, instead of being depressed he tells Hester that she is better off having such huge money than having an evil souled son.


Bassett is the family’s gardener. He is a humble man with religious views. He is a young boy who wounded his leg in World War I. After the war, he began working for Paul’s family through Uncle Oscar’s reference. Bassett served under Oscar’s command in the battle. He works with Paul and Oscar and arranges gambling bets for him because Paul asks Bassett to work for him. He values Paul and keeps his money safe with him. He also keeps his betting hidden upon Paul’s order. Bassett’s character presents a simple and subservient person who is easily led by everyone according to their demands.

Hester’s Husband

 Lawrence depicts this character as a kind of unconventional figure who remains absent from the lives of his family members. We come to know from the story that he has expensive choices like Hester. However, his luck does not support him in the money-making process. He is not named until the end of the story. This feature is quite unconventional because in contemporary society men were given more power and value. On the contrary, in The Rocking-Horse Winner, his wife, Hester has the say. She runs those responsibilities for the family that male members do e.g. thinking about their social class, concerned for money, and arranging for Paul’s admission to a high-class institution. Paul tries to fill the gap created by his father in his mother’s life. Therefore, he begins to struggle for his luck.

The Rocking-Horse Winner Literary Analysis

Plot Analysis


Paul’s family lives in a stable state with enough money to fulfill their needs. However, the tension begins when Hester refuses to accept the ordinary way of life. She struggles to get out of this life and live luxuriously like elites. They live in a utilitarian world where everything is measured in material worth. For Paul’s family, this difference between their income and huge expenses makes the situation worse.

Rising Action

Paul internalizes his mother’s philosophy in his mind who says that his parents are not lucky people. Hester realizes to him their miserable financial status. She tells him that those who have money are lucky people. He also hallucinates that the house whispers about the lack of wealth. Therefore, he decides to prove himself lucky in his mother’s eyes.


Oscar learns about Paul’s gambling on horse racing along with the gardener Bassett. He is confused about the whole situation. For instance, on the one hand, he feels that gambling is not good for his family’s health because evil never thrives. On the other hand, his greed overcomes him and he becomes a partner with Paul to gain some wealth.


After a huge win, Paul decides to send his mother a significant amount of money as her birthday gift. This should have been a happy occasion for her but seeing this gift increases her greed. She wants to get all the money, which he has reserved for her birthdays, together.

Falling Action

Paul becomes more anxious at this revelation that his family and house cries for more and more wealth. In this depression, he rides his rocking-horse violently at a huge speed. The reason is that he desires to know about the winning horse in the upcoming memorable event of Derby. He wants to earn a mountain of money through shortcuts within no time.


In the end, he identifies the name of the winning horse that is Malabar. After this, he falls from his rocking horse and has a severe fit of brain fever. Within a few days, he dies but wins the bet and leaves 80,000 pounds for his mother.

Setting of the Story

The story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” happens in the 1920s in England. For instance, there is a reference to World War I through the story of Bassett. Also, horse racing games were common in the 1920s.

The family lives in a nice and well-ordered house near London with maids working for them. They have a moderate level of income and needs. However, Hester is not content with living a simple life. She is preoccupied with her wheel of luck. She only pretends to be rich as she has ordered her home in a sophisticated way. The children live and play in the nursery with maids. While the parents take their meals and rest separately. The main place of action is their home but it is also haunted by the yearning for money. The children can hear the whispers of the house that “There must be more money”.

The moaning house predicts the internal conflicts of the house members. As Hester and her family live in a nice neighborhood, they crave to be better or at least equal to their surroundings. This creates an inferiority complex in the family’s psyche. They feel their house is screaming but when Paul wins huge money, the house becomes more dreadful. Through the story, Lawrence warns materialistic people that they will never find comfort and peace even at home.  


Lawrence depicts the issues of materialism and appearances in society through his ironic narration of such instances. For example, Hester is a pretentious woman for whom appearance is more important than reality. She wants people to acknowledge that she is a good wife and mother. On the contrary, she knows that this is all false. Similarly, Hester’s family has no overflowing money to spend here and there but she does it to appear to be wealthy. Here Lawrence becomes ironic when he praises her beauty or her mannerism. However, readers are aware of her fake nature.

Likely, the so-called wealthy and good Uncle Oscar also turns out to be a greedy person. He knows that Paul is following the wrong path to luck and success. Instead of forbidding him, he becomes his partner. Therefore, Oscar’s description of a wealthy and good-humored person is ironic.

On the other hand, the narrator shows sympathy for the young boy Paul. He is depicted as a boy with real feelings. No doubt, he yearns for more and more money, but he does it just for his family’s peace and his mother’s love. His tragic death also leaves the readers to feel sorry for him.


The short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is in the structure of classic gothic fiction. The gothic elements include whispering house, Paul’s strange glowing eyes, his supernatural way of predicting horses’ names, and Paul’s tragic death.

As a modern story, Lawrence includes Sigmund Freud’s concept of the oedipal complex in it. For instance, there is a love triangle between Paul, his mother Hester, and his absent father. Paul can go to any extent of madness to seek his mother’s appreciation and love. He tries to replace his father by earning more than him and fill his place in Hester’s heart. However, his mother is like a thankless beloved who is self-centered.


The title “The Rocking-Horse Winner” consists of the major symbol “rocking-horse”. The title seems a little confusing about the nature of the rocking horse. For example, Paul does not win the rocking horse. On the contrary, the rocking horse controls Paul and turns him into a wild animal. This is an ironic statement about Paul’s concept of whipping and controlling his horse. He thinks that he has made it submissive to his will and desire. However, in this play of submission and mastery, the toy takes Paul’s life.

It also refers to the gambling bets that Paul wins with the help of the rocking horse. For example, it takes Paul into a trance-like state. Then he is able to guess about the winning horse in the next race.

Point of View

The narrator uses third-person omniscient narration to convey his thoughts about the characters. The story even begins with a description like a fairy tale in which the readers wait for something extraordinary to happen. Through the use of ironic statements and exaggerated imagery about different characters, the writer presents their superficial natures. Through omniscient narration, the narrator informs the readers about the inner and outer selves and fake personalities of the characters.

Writing Form

Lawrence weaves his “The Rocking-Horse Winner” in an allegorical framework in which various mysteries remain unfolded. For example, the rocking horse can be taken as an evil force. Also, we can consider it a simple toy turned wild by its owner or it can be anything else.

The story seems like folklore or a classic tale. The language is simple and misses the lengthy and descriptive sentences of realistic fiction.

Symbolism and Devices

Oedipal complex

Oedipal complex is one of Sigmund Freud’s most popular concepts in literature. In the oedipal complex, a son feels sexual attraction towards his mother. As he spends his early stage of life with his mother, the child develops a rivalry with his father. He wants to replace his father and gain his mother’s love. It is one of the most discussed complexes in various works of art e.g. Hamlet, Sons and Lovers.

In “The Rocking-Horse Winner” Paul’s attraction towards his mother depicts a similar situation. For instance, in his yearning for Hester’s love, he is ready to sacrifice everything. There is a love lock between Paul, Hester, and Paul’s father. Paul begins gambling for his mother’s approval. She tells him that lucky people have wealth. Therefore, he struggles to fit himself to his mother’s definition of “luck” rather than digging out what luck actually means.

He also wants to take his father’s place in his family’s life. For example, Paul and his siblings hear the voice of the house that irritates them. He resolves to bring more money home to make his family comfortable. He also sends his mother an anonymous birthday gift of 1000 pounds that reflects his place of an unknown lover in her life.

The Rocking Horse

The rocking horse is the most mysterious and unnatural toy that Paul has in the story. It is very important for him as it is gifted by his mother on Christmas day. This gift is a symbol of Paul’s psychological makeup. This mentality is set by his mother according to her concept of “luck”. He makes a deep connection with the rocking horse just as he incorporates her concept in his mind. As the toy comes home as a “shiny modern” object, it heightens Paul’s anxiety to provide modern facilities to his mother. The toy also drives Paul’s strange and shiny eyes wild with eagerness and passion.

Although Paul owns the horse, however, in reality, he is controlled by the toy. As his mother discusses luck with Paul, he feels that he has some mysterious attachment with the horse. Furthermore, when he begins riding it to find his luck, it becomes impossible for him to retreat. The rocking horse turns him into a frantic beast who is wild in his mad pursuit.

Likewise, Paul’s toil on the rocking horse symbolizes his futile efforts to gain wealth. For example, his violent rocking on the horse does not yield any true movement. He is just blindly following what others say and it has no prospect. The horse also symbolizes the dangers of yearning for materialism, money, status, and love. Just like Hester, Paul thinks that with the material wealth he will find love and affection. For this, he relies on a useless object that brings his early death.

The horse is also a symbol of Paul’s anxiety about his growing adulthood. His mother shifts Paul into his bedroom from the nursery and says that he is too old for a rocking horse. However, he refuses to detach himself from it. He calls it his “secret of secrets” and he cannot talk about it to his mother. He has to keep it hidden in his bedroom. Also, his mad riding on the horse shows his loss of control over his sexual desire. He wants to win his mother over his father. Whenever she gets upset over money or luck, Paul begins riding his horse madly.

Money and Materialism

Money is another significant factor that runs the story. Hester desperately wants money to gain a high status and luxurious life. When Paul asks her whether luck and money are the same thing, she responds assertively. He misunderstands the expression “filthy lucre” for “filthy lucker” as he hears it from his uncle. Therefore, Paul thinks that money earns love and luck. Similarly, Hester also thinks that being lucky means having lots of wealth.

Lawrence, through the course of the novel, shows that money does not bring love or luck. As Paul gifts his mother lots of money, she still desires more instead of being happy. Consequently, Paul does not gain what he longs for but finds a tragic end. Similarly, Hester’s quest for materialism deprives her of the only son. With the captivating tale of the interwoven money-luck relationship, the writer warns the people about the risks and dangers of greed. It increases distances among intimate family members and shifts their attention to useless things.

Religious Taste

“The Rocking-Horse Winner” has a slight Christian tinge. For instance, the gardener Bassett is represented as a modest religious figure. He considers Paul as a chosen person of God because He has given him extraordinary abilities. He can guess future bets and wins them also.

Similarly, Paul is an innocent child. He can be compared to the innocence of Christ. Christ was crucified for his innocence. He sacrificed himself for his people. Likewise, Paul dies for the happiness of his family. However, his death is a result of his quest for the acceptance of his mother rather than God. Also, Paul does not resurrect on the third day of his death like Christ. He dies after three days of illness. 

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