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

The Rocking-Horse Winner book cover
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What is the tone of the story "The Rocking Horse Winner" ?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The tone of "The Rocking-Horse Winner" is bleak and unhappy. It starts off, from the first paragraph, with a mother who believes she has no luck and finds she can't love her children. It moves from there to the children recognizing that their mother doesn't love them. Following that, we learn of the mother's perceived lack of money and a house that seems to cry out all the time for more money.

Although the family lives well and keeps up appearances, the house seems to say,

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

The bleakness continues as the mother's son, Paul, becomes fixated on obtaining money for her by riding his rocking horse furiously hard until he can ascertain the winner of an upcoming horse race. Yet even giving his mother the winnings doesn't relieve the tension that permeates the household. No matter how much Paul wins, it is never enough. The money also never earns him his mother's love. Finally, he dies to win her the huge Derby purse. This is a bleak ending to a bleak tale, as we can imagine that even that vast amount of money won't be enough to fill the hole in the mother's psyche.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Great question! Your answer to this story is going to be based on what you think the primary point of the story is. Do you think that this is primarily a ghost story of the supernatural which focuses on the spooky relationship between Paul and the rocking horse that enables Paul to eerily predict winning horses or is this primarily a moral tale which borders on the satirical as Lawrence drives home didactically his message about the dangers of materialism and how it can rip families apart and even lead to death?

Based on your answer to this question you can say that the tone of the story is either ominous and mystical, or satirical. If you go for the former you can focus on passages that describe how Paul describes the further you get into the story, particularly on his voice, his eyes and the rocking of the rocking horse. If satirical is your answer then you can talk about the greed of the mother and the irony at the end when she has gained her dream but lost her son in the process.

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