In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," how can the family's economic condition be described?
caroline-engle | Certified Educator
No matter how much money Paul's family has, there never seems to be enough. At the beginning of the story, Paul's family lives in a nice home with a garden and servants. Despite their relative wealth, though, Paul's parents have expensive taste and always believe they do not have enough money. Both of them make small incomes that are not enough to finance the lifestyle they want. This lifestyle matters to them largely because they seek to maintain their social position. Paul, his parents, and his sisters are considered the poor ones of the family. Even though they do not have the money for an extravagant lifestyle, Paul's parents take out loans to pay for it anyway. Although they are young, Paul and his two sisters are aware of their family's financial strain; at one point, Paul asks his uncle if he knows that people send his mother writs.
To make his house stop whispering about money, Paul begins to bet on racehorses. He ends up being very successful at this, and is soon able to arrange for his mother to receive one thousand pounds every year for five years. This amounts to 5,000 pounds, which was a substantial sum of money. Five thousand pounds in 1926, the year D. H. Lawrence published "The Rocking-Horse Winner," is the equivalent of 274,000 pounds today. To put that in terms of American currency, 274,000 pounds is worth over $340,000. Once Paul's mother receives this money, the whispering in the house gets worse, not better. She spends even more money, paying for Paul to attend Eton for school, filling the house with the smells of almond blossom and mimosa, and purchasing luxurious cushions. No matter how much money Paul's mother has at her disposal, she will always spend more than is available.
With the hope of ending the whispering once and for all, Paul rocks his rocking-horse (which is where he has learned of all the previous winning racehorses) into a frenzy. He does learn the name of the winning horse, though, and bets a lot of money on it prior to becoming unresponsive. Paul was correct in his bet and dies shortly after learning he was successful. Ultimately, Paul leaves his family with over 80,000 pounds, but it is not said whether they use this large sum of money to pay off their debts or if it is used on even more extravagant purchases.