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

The Rocking-Horse Winner book cover
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What is the conflict in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main conflicts in the story concern the family's lack of money to keep up with their social status and Paul's attempts to make his mother happy. Paul's mother is unhappy because she is in debt and thinks she needs more money. She tells her son that in order to be rich, one has to be lucky. Unfortunately, she and her husband are both unlucky people. Paul wishes to make his mother happy and stop the "whispering" throughout the house about the shortage of money. Paul is determined to become lucky, and is able to prophetically envision the winning race horses after riding his rocking-horse. After winning large sums of money, Paul gives his mother a thousand pounds, but this does not make her happy. Paul's obsession with making his mother happy through financial gains is futile, and he eventually dies after winning over eighty thousand pounds. Lawrence conveys the message that one cannot find happiness in material objects and money.

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main conflict in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" relates to the fact that the family does not have enough money for their wants and desires.  This desire for more money lies at the heart of all of the conflict that occurs in the story itself.  Paul senses his mother's desire for more money, which drives him to try to be "lucky", which leads to his rocking-horse madness.  This leads to the races, and Bassett and his uncle teaming up with him.  Once Paul earns money for his mother, it isn't enough, so the added intensity to the conflict comes as he races even harder to try to earn more money.  His mad-dashes on his rocking-horse lead to his illness and eventual death.

The main theme of this story is that greed for money never leads to happiness, and always asks too much in return.  It is a vain pursuit, destined to lead to misery and turmoil.  And that theme is the underlying conflict throughout the story--Paul trying to get money in order for his mother to be happy and to love him.  Paul thinks that if he can be lucky, he will earn his mother's love; the conflict here though is that his pursuit is a vain, impossible one.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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