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...
(The entire section is 865 words.)
"The Rocking-Horse Winner" is the story of a boy's gift for picking the winners in horse races. An omniscient narrator relates the tale of a boy whose family is always short of money. His mother is incapable of showing love and is obsessed with the status that material wealth can provide. Her son is acutely aware of his mother's desire for money, and he is motivated to take action. He wants to help her, but he also wants to silence the voice that haunts him, the voice of the house itself whispering, "There must be more money! There must be more money!"
Paul questions his mother about the family's circumstances. When he asks her why they do not have a car and why they are the "poor members of the family," she responds "it's because your father has no luck." Dissatisfied with her answer, the boy presses her for an explanation of what makes one person lucky and another unlucky. Finally, he declares that he knows himself to be lucky because God told him so. With the help of Basset the gardener and his mother's brother Oscar, Paul sets out to prove his brazen assertion true by picking the winners in horse races. While riding on his rocking horse, Paul envisions the winners.
Paul proves to be unnaturally talented at divining the winners of the races, and before too long he has saved a considerable sum of money. When his uncle asks him what he plans to do with the money, he reveals that he wants to give it to his mother. He hopes that his...
(The entire section is 901 words.)