The Rocking-Horse Winner Questions and Answers
by D. H. Lawrence

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Does Paul solve his mother's problem? Why or why not?  

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Heather Garey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In D.H. Lawrence's short story "The Rocking Horse Winner," it is Paul's greatest desire to solve his mother's problem. However, it is my belief that he is unable to do so. Paul's mother, whose name is Hester, has a desire for luxurious and beautiful things. Hester is cold toward her children, and is motivated most strongly by greed. The narrator of the story explains that she felt a hardness in her heart for the children she felt had been "thrust" upon her. People called her a good mother, because she compensated for her cold heart. "Only she herself, and her children themselves, know it was not so. They read it in each other's eyes."

The family lived comfortably, but they didn't have enough money to keep up the social status they believed they were entitled to. "There was never enough money. The mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up." Paul feels the tension in the house, and hears the whispers that there is never enough money. His mother explains to him one day that some people have luck, and that is what causes them to be able to have money. From that day forward, Paul is intent on becoming a lucky person. He believes that he has been told by God that he will be a lucky person.

He uses his rocking horse to channel the supernatural knowledge he gains about horse racing. With the help of the gardener, Bassett, he saves up a considerable amount of money to be paid out to his mother one thousand pounds at a time. He eagerly awaits her reaction to the lawyer's letter informing her about the money to be paid out on her birthday but is disappointed that she does not seem impressed. He gives direction to the lawyer to pay her the entire five thousand pounds of his winnings, but she is still not satisfied. The money is spent on luxuries and quickly dwindles away.

Paul continues his quest to earn enough money to satisfy his mother and make her happy. Near the end of the story, his mother has maternal instincts that Paul is becoming obsessed and something is seriously wrong. She feels a "strange anxiety in her heart" after returning from a party one evening, and goes to check on Paul. She finds him furiously riding the rocking horse and shouting out "It's Malabar!" predicting the winner of the Derby. He then collapses from fever. He dies from his illness, but not before winning eighty thousand pounds from his foreknowledge that Malabar will win the Derby.

His mother has lost a son, which should have been of more worth than any amount of money. She has lost this son because of her own obsession with wealth and status. She has the money, but the pattern has been (and will likely continue to be) that larger and larger amounts do not satisfy her greed, and now she has lost a treasure of untold worth due to her superficial desires.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is an interesting question. Paul dies to win 80,000 pounds in the derby for his  "heart-frozen mother," an amount of money which would on the surface appear to solve her financial problems. However, we know from earlier experience, when Paul, with the help of his uncle and the gardener, wins 5,000 pounds for his mother, that the 5,000 pounds is not enough to suit her. From this, we can gather that no amount of money will ever satisfy her insatiable desire for more and more. In fact, after getting and spending the 5,000, the "house" (which represents the mother) is even less satisfied, whispering more and more urgently: "We must have more money-more than ever!"

This story is a morality tale, teaching that the absence of a capacity to love --and we know from the start that the mother lacks the capacity even to love her own children--leaves a hole in people so deep that no amount of money or sacrifice on the part of others can ever fill it.  Likewise, money simply becomes an addiction, feeding a destructive appetite for more.

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