The Rocking-Horse Winner Questions and Answers

D. H. Lawrence

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting The Rocking-Horse Winner questions.

How Does Paul Pick Winners?

D. H. Lawrence's story "The Rocking-Horse Winner" has a mystical, magical, or possibly diabolical air about it. The author never explains or even hints why Paul is able to accumulate a fortune by betting on race horses. Is there some magical way of picking winners? Many people would like to believe so, especially horse players. Could Paul keep on picking winners forever if he hadn't died trying to please his mother?

Paul is probably experiencing two phenomena which are commonly taken for granted among gamblers. One of them is what is called "beginner's luck." It does seem rather uncanny how novices, especially young ones, can have amazing luck when they first start betting on anything, especially horses. Maybe they have pure intuition, while experienced horse players know too much about past performances, jockeys, trainers, overlays, underlays, parlays, longshots, favorites, and everything else. The other phenomenon is what is called a "lucky streak." In all gambling, it seems common for a person to "get hot" and have an unbroken string of winning bets, and then, in accordance with the law of averages, the same gambler will "get cold" and have a string of losses.

Casino operators in Las Vegas take these "streaks" seriously. If a shooter "gets hot" at the craps table, for example, the "stick men" will keep switching the dice on him in an attempt to cool him off. The house is not only losing money on the shooter, but most of the people around the table will start betting with him when they sense he is on a winning streak.

In the 2003 movie The Cooler, the character played by William H. Macy is so consistently unlucky in life as well as in gambling that he gets a job as a "cooler." When a gambler is on a hot streak, all the Cooler has to do is stroll over and stand beside him and the hot streak will go up in smoke instantaneously.

D. H. Lawrence does not need to assert that Paul has some supernatural power for the purposes of his story. It is still largely realistic. Paul is just going through a period during which he is profiting from two legendary phenomena combined--beginner's luck and a lucky streak. In time, if he had lived, Paul would likely have lost his beginner's luck because he would no longer be a beginner. He would have come to the end of his lucky streak and started to lose all the money he had won.

Why does Hester need for money?

It might be said, as a broad generalization, that there are two types of people: those who believe money is something to be spent, and those who believe money is a good thing in of itself. People who like to spend their money regard it as only so much paper or coins until it has performed its magic of creating whatever one cares to wish for. Paul’s mother Hester is such a person. She could never get enough money because she can think of too many ways to spend it. When Paul arranges through his Uncle Oscar for his mother to receive five thousand pounds in one lump sum,

Something very curious happened. The voices in the house suddenly went mad, like a chorus of frogs on a spring evening. There were certain new furnishings, and Paul had a tutor. He was really going to Eton, his father’s school, in the following autumn. There were flowers in the winter, and a blossoming of the luxury Paul’s mother had been used to. And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: “There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money. Oh, now, now-w! Now-w-w—there must be more money!—more than ever! More than ever!”

The people who believe money is a good thing in itself value it because it can provide security and freedom. Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet, talks about money in his “Epistle to a Young Friend,” which is full of practical advice.

To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile, Assiduous wait upon her; And gather gear by ev’ry wile That’s justified by honour; Not for to hide it in a hedge, Nor for a train attendant, But for the glorious privilege Of being independent.

And Somerset Maugham, who made a lot of money as a writer of plays, novels, short stories, and essays, had this to say on the subject of money:

The value of money is that with it you can tell anyone to go to the devil.

That is approximately the same as saying that with enough money you can enjoy the glorious privilege of being independent. 

It was a good thing that Hester lived in the days before credit cards, because she would have spent Paul’s five thousand pounds, which she did have, and another five thousand pounds which she didn’t have. This is pretty much what is happening to many Americans today, and Hester can be seen as a representative of all the people who believe money is only good for buying “things” and only paper or base metal in its “natural” state; or worse yet, the money may only be in the form of numbers on a bank statement, numbers which may or may not be convertible to the scraps of paper with the pictures of all those serious and sober-looking gentlemen on them.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but respect for money is not a bad idea at all. Many people only learn the value of money when they run out of it.

Does Paul Possess Extrasensory Perception?

D. H. Lawrence seems, as a prelude to describing how Paul is able to pick winning horses by riding his rocking-horse, to be suggesting that all children possess extrasensory perception. Paul and his two sisters can all hear the voices the author describes.

And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time, though nobody said it aloud. They heard it at Christmas, when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery. Behind the shining modern rocking horse, behind the smart doll's house, a voice would start whispering: "There must be more money! There must be more money!" And the children would stop playing, to listen for a moment. They would look into each other's eyes, to see if they had all heard. And each one saw in the eyes of the other two that they too had heard. "There must be more money! There must be more money!"

This is the kind of thing that many of us can remember from our childhoods. We seemed to possess some intuitive knowledge that was lost to us after a certain age. We knew that certain things were going to happen before they happened. If we can relate to these three children in their hearing the voices crying for more money, then it becomes easier to accept the notion that Paul should also be able to use that same intuitive ability to see into the future and predict the names of horses that would win races yet to be run. Paul, it would seem, is only making use of the extrasensory perception that all children bring into the world with them.

Whether or not this is literally true, it seems true enough to make us believe in D. H. Lawrence's assertions that the children can hear the voices crying, "There must be more money!" and to make us believe that Paul could actually foretell the future with the same ESP (extrasensory perception). After all, he is able to convince his uncle and Bassett the family gardener. These grown men have lost the magical powers of childhood, but are more than willing to place their money on Paul's picks. Paul's mother is more than willing to take the money and spend it.