Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“The Rocking-Horse Winner” relates the desperate and foredoomed efforts of a young boy to win his mother’s love by seeking the luck that she bitterly maintains she does not have. By bringing her the luxurious life for which she longs, Paul hopes to win her love, to compensate her for her unhappiness with his father, and to bring peace to their anxious, unhappy household. He determines to find luck after a conversation with his mother, in which she tells him that she is not lucky, having married an unlucky husband, and that it is better to have luck than money because luck brings money. In response, Paul clearly accepts the unspoken invitation to take his father’s place in fulfilling his mother’s dreams of happiness. His purpose seems to be fulfilled when, with the help of Bassett, the gardener, he begins to win money betting on horse races. Shortly thereafter, he confides in his uncle Oscar, whom he also considers lucky because Oscar’s gift of money started his winning streak.
Paul, Oscar, and Bassett continue to bet and win until Paul has five thousand pounds to give his mother for her birthday, to be distributed to her over the next five years. When she receives the anonymous present, she does not seem at all happy but sets about arranging to get the whole five thousand pounds at once. As a result, Hester becomes even more obsessed with money, increasingly anxious for more. Also, the house, which previously seemed to whisper “There must be...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In a London suburb in the mid-1920’s, a woman who maintains what most people would regard as quite a comfortable manner of living in a well-furnished house with several retainers is convinced that she has “no luck.” Hester is beautiful and youthful, but her husband has not succeeded in advancing beyond a routine position in the city, and her children can sense that, in spite of the attention and care she offers them, she does not really love them. She herself is deeply troubled by what she feels is a “hard little place”at the center of her being that prevents her from loving anybody.
Hester’s son Paul, a very sensitive boy who adores her and who is her favorite among the three children, understands on an instinctual level that his mother is not happy. He is on the threshold of adolesence, eager and energetic, and becoming increasingly curious about the ways of the adult world. Paul inquires as to why the family does not own a car but must take taxis or borrow the car of Hester’s brother Oscar Cresswell. Hester tells Paul that his father has “no luck.” Paul does not fully understand what this statement means, but his mother suggests that it is inextricably connected to money and, in the case of their family, its insufficiency.
While Paul and the other children are not familiar with the economics of their household, they have a grasp of the ways in which their mother’s concerns have permeated every aspect of their lives. The house itself seems to echo Hester’s conviction that “There must be more money.” Paul ponders the problem, and, while he is taking an imaginative ride on his treasured toy rocking horse, he makes a kind of abstracted connection between the condition of consciousness he develops amid the rhythms of the ride and an entrance into another realm where some secrets of the universe are revealed to him. He becomes convinced that his beloved toy can carry him to a solution to his mother’s unhappiness and, since money is at the core of the problem, enable him to provide what is missing in the household.
Paul’s uncle Oscar, whom he...
(The entire section is 865 words.)