drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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Why is each character in "The Rocking-Horse Winner" motivated to acquire money?

Bassett's motivation for acquiring money is a normal, rational desire to get ahead financially in the world; Uncle Oscar's motivation is frenzy and greed.

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The two characters whose motivations we gain insights into are the mother and Paul. The father remains in the shadows, seen through the eyes of the mother, while the uncle and groom simply seem to have a reasonable, healthy enjoyment of betting on the races. The mother, however, has an...

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empty spot in her soul that she tries to fill with money; however, as is almost always the case with inner emptiness, money simply can't fill the void. She is dissatisfied with her husband and, we are told, is incapable of really loving her children. Money becomes her substitute for love, and the house is permeated by the sense that there is never enough, despite the family's comfortable lifestyle.

Paul goes on his endless quest of riding his rocking horse to win money for his mother because he senses her emptiness and wants to make her happy and earn her love and approval. He gives all his winnings to her. He eventually rides himself to death to win money, money that he doesn't want for himself, in the attempt to fill his mother's void.

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In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," why is Bassett motivated to acquire money?

In relation to "The Rocking-Horse Winner," the word "motivated" in the context of acquiring money suggests being incited or impelled (i.e., driven) to acquire money. Bassett, however, does not have an impelling drive to acquire money. His motivation for acquiring money by being a betting partner with Paul is a life-long interest in horses, horse racing and horse betting coupled with a normal, rational desire to get ahead financially in the world. This normal, rational desire to get ahead is demonstrated by the care he takes in safe-guarding Paul's money and the graciousness with which he steps aside when Oscar Cresswell (Uncle Oscar) becomes involved. So if "motivated" is used to mean only the reason Bassett acquires money, the reason is a normal and rational desire to accumulate wealth for the purpose of getting ahead in life and living comfortably without worry. On the other hand, it is Uncle Oscar who is "motivated to acquire money" in the sense discussed above, which means being incited or impelled to acquire it, which implies a sense of frenzy and greed, qualities Uncle Oscar's actions and manipulations bear out as being applicable to him and true.

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