In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," what is the meaning of Uncle Oscar's final line?
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D.H. Lawrence wrote "The Rocking-Horse Winner" in 1926 about a young boy, Paul, who can predict horse-race winners.
The famous final lines of the story are:
"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!"
"No, you never did," said the mother.
But the boy died in the night.
And even as he lay dead, his mother heard her brother's voice saying to her: "My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner."
(Lawrence, "The Rocking-Horse Winner," literature.org)
Uncle Oscar, who throughout the story has been using Paul for his own financial benefit, is complex; he makes no effort to better Paul's education on horse-racing, but also secretly sends money to his sister Hester, Paul's mother, who believes herself to be unlucky despite her relatively comfortable life. Paul's final tip leaves Hester with a great deal of money, "eighty-odd thousand to the good," but dies in his efforts, "a poor devil of a son to the bad."
Hester, meanwhile, has taken no pains to help Paul, instead thinking entirely on her own, largely imagined plight. Paul's selflessness led to his death as he drove himself to a frenzy predicting the winner. Oscar, who has little enough in the way of generosity, sees through his sister and feels sympathy for Paul, who wanted nothing more than to help his family; Paul is "best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner" for a family and a mother who have no care for his well-being.
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