drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence
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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," why is the tone tense and the mood mysterious? What is some supporting evidence for these claims?

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Tone refers to the way author feels about the subject of the text, and I would argue that the author seems to disapprove of Paul's mother and her values. She is a "beautiful woman" who began life with many advantages, and though she married for love and made beautiful children,...

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Tone refers to the way author feels about the subject of the text, and I would argue that the author seems to disapprove of Paul's mother and her values. She is a "beautiful woman" who began life with many advantages, and though she married for love and made beautiful children, she is ungrateful for all she has because she wants more money. She feels a "hard little place" in her heart and she knows that she cannot love anyone else, and though she puts on a good show for others, her children are aware of her lack of love for them.

This certainly leads to a feeling of tension in the story; Paul, for example, wants to make his mother happy and to be lucky so that he can stop the whispering of the house. His mother tells him, "If you're lucky you have money," making him think that having money is the most important thing (rather than appreciating what other lucky things one has, like a loving husband and kind children). As a result of this lesson, Paul eventually dies trying to make money to soothe his mother. Lawrence's tone, then, is sympathetic to Paul and judgmental of Paul's mother, creating tension.

The mysterious mood is created, in part, by Paul's strange way of coming by information about which horse will win in the races. When he rides his rocking horse furiously, a name will come to him, and then he can bet on it. This is a mysterious process that adds to the mood. Paul's uncle gets involved, beginning to bet on horses at his nephew's suggestion, and he cannot understand it either. At one point, "the boy watched him with big blue eyes, that had a strange cold fire in them." The oxymoron—cold fire—is odd and off-putting, adding to the mood.

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