In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," why does Paul feel the need to be lucky?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In D.H. Lawrence's short story "The Rocking-Horse Winner," Paul is a young boy who wants to help his family with their financial problems.

Paul's concept of luck is based in his mother Hester's view:

"Is luck money, mother?" he asked, rather timidly.

"No, Paul! Not quite. It's what causes you to have money."
He went off by himself, vaguely, in a childish way, seeking for the clue to "luck". Absorbed, taking no heed of other people, he went about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck. He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it. When the two girls were playing dolls, in the nursery, he would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily. Wildly the horse careered, the waving dark hair of the boy tossed, his eyes had a strange glare in them.
(Lawrence, "The Rocking-Horse Winner,"

Hester's obsession with luck transfers to Paul; instead of blaming herself or her husband for their low finances, she blames the ill-defined concept of "luck" and so avoids responsibility. Paul takes the notion of "luck" as something that can be achieved instead of a vague, random construct, and drives himself mad seeking it. His desire is to help Hester with her sorrow, because he doesn't understand that she brings it on herself. He acts in an entirely selfless manner, giving her his winnings in secret and finally dying in a sick frenzy to give her a big winner. Paul wants to be lucky for Hester, since she says she isn't lucky herself, and so gives up his own self for her desires.

Read the study guide:
The Rocking-Horse Winner

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