The Rocking Horse Winner Theme

What is the theme of "The Rocking-Horse Winner" and how is it developed throughout the story?

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Wealth is a dominant theme of D.H.Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner."

In this story, the acquisition of wealth becomes the measure of value for everything in life. The preoccupation with money as a measure of worth in the mother's mind becomes so prevalent in the home that her son Paul...

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Wealth is a dominant theme of D.H.Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner."

In this story, the acquisition of wealth becomes the measure of value for everything in life. The preoccupation with money as a measure of worth in the mother's mind becomes so prevalent in the home that her son Paul complains to his uncle, "I hate our house for whispering." Further, he explains to Uncle Oscar that he has started his betting on horses "for Mother." Paul hopes that by winning a considerable sum of money, he can quiet the house and bring his mother luck. But even when he has money sent to her secretly in the mail, and he asks his mother if she has received "anything nice in the post" when it arrives, Paul receives this reply: "'Quite moderately nice'...her voice cold and absent."

This cold answer disappoints Paul, so he has more money sent by way of the lawyer's office to help pay all her debt. Then, he returns to his rocking horse so that he can discover another winner. When he does not pick a winner for the Grand National, Paul becomes "wild-eyed and strange, as if something were going to explode in him."

The mother's obsession with acquiring wealth and measuring everything by monetary amounts influences the family's emotional states, ranging from self-worth to love. Therefore, it becomes a destructive force because only spiritual values can bring personal satisfaction and a sense of well-being. As the family grows more and more emotionally impoverished, the voices in the house continue to scream: "There must be more money!...Oh, now, now-w! Now-2-2---there must be more money!--more than ever! More than ever!" Despite his increased efforts, Paul becomes unable to continue to win. Then, spiritually starved and tormented by his feverish drive for more money to satisfy his mother and win her love, Paul finally collapses and dies one night.

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There are several recurring themes that emerge in D. H. Lawrence's short story, "The Rocking-Horse Winner." One is the Oedipus Complex that arises between Paul and his mother. Paul's strong desire to appease his mother leads to him financially usurping his father as the money-provider of the household. His wild riding of the rocking horse conjures vivid sexual imagery. Another theme is that of greed. Paul's mother shows little attention to her son or husband, concentrating only on money and finding ways to spend it. The more money Paul makes from his gambling winnings, the more his mother desires. In the end, her son's illness and death seem to be secondary to her love of money. A third theme is family responsibility. Paul's parents are always short of money; his father works regularly, but his income is not enough for the house--and especially for his wife's desires. Paul, the young son, eventually becomes the primary breadwinner, yet his efforts seem to go unnoticed by the father, and his mother--rather than showing love and appreciation--only wants more money.

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Two of the major themes of the story are pitted against each other in "The Rocking Horse Winner". The first theme is obsession with money. This is shown especially in the character of Hester, Paul's mother, who never thinks she has enough money. Her obsession is pitted against the theme of the responsiblity of parenthood. Hester tends to ignore her children and focus on the material wealth that she thinks she should have. This results in her son Paul trying to make up for his father's lack of material success in order to make his mother happy. Of course, the results are tragic because even though Paul is able to provide his mother with some wealth, it costs him his life and his mother is still not satisfied. 

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