The Rocking-Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence

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What is the setting for "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Because the story has a fairy-tale quality, Lawrence is vague about the geographic details of the setting. We know it is set in England because Paul ends up betting on the derby and Paul will be sent to Eton, a famous English public (what Americans would call private) school for upper-class boys. The time is unspecified, and there is no reference to political events. Paul asking his mother why they don't have a car means cars are a typical upper-class form of transportation at the time, which would place the story in the 1910s or 1920s—we know it was published in 1926.

The main setting of the story is the house, which almost functions as a character. The house seems to a have a consciousness of its own, borrowed from the anxieties of the family. The walls of the house seem to whisper:

There must be more money! There must be more money!

We never see Paul leave the house, which lends a claustrophobic quality to his existence there. And while we learn a little about the house, for instance that it is "pleasant," has a "garden," and at one point is filled with flowers that Paul's mother has purchased, we are offered few concrete details about it. We do learn that the nursery where Paul rides his rocking horse so furiously is filled with expensive toys, such as a doll-house, a doll "smirking" in her "pram," and stuffed animals. But Lawrence uses such broad strokes to describe his setting that he maintains a mythic, dreamlike, fairy-tale quality.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Author D. H. Lawrence lived in many places around the world-- including Germany, Italy, Australia, Mexico and New Mexico--but his short story, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" takes place in his native England. Lawrence lived much of his life in Croydon, south of London, and this could be the setting of the story.

They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.

Oscar spends time with Bassett and Paul in Richmond Park (London's largest royal park); Paul hopes to attend his father's alma mater at Eton College; Uncle Oscar has a home in Hampshire on the southern coast of England; and one of the big races in the story is at the Lincoln Racecourse, home of the Lincoln Handicap. First published in 1926, "The Rocking-Horse Winner" probably is set in the early- to mid-1920s, and certainly after the invention of the automobile, since Uncle Oscar often took Paul "for a ride in the car."

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