drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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Discussion Topic

Analyze the speaker and significance of various quotes from "The Rocking Horse Winner."

Summary:

The speaker in "The Rocking Horse Winner" is an omniscient third-person narrator who provides insight into the characters' thoughts and motivations. The quotes reveal the central themes of greed and the pursuit of luck. For example, the whispering house saying, "There must be more money," symbolizes the family's insatiable desire for wealth, driving the plot and Paul’s tragic quest for luck.

Expert Answers

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What is the significance of these quotes from "The Rocking Horse Winner"?

"It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."
"There was a pause. Daffodil was an obscure horse comparatively."
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, laddie!" said Uncle Oscar
"Let it alone, son! Don't you bother about it!" urged Uncle Oscar. But it was as if the boy couldn't really hear what his uncle was saying.
"Poor devil, poor devil"

1. Before this quote, Paul has confused the word lucre with the word luck after hearing his uncle refer to "filthy lucre." Paul's mother tells him that lucre is money, not luck. Paul then asks her what luck is, and she responds with the quote that states, "It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. . . ." The significance of this quote is that it shows how centrally important money is to Paul's mother. She doesn't equate luck with love, children, family, health or any of the many other attributes people generally connect with good fortune.

2. This quote shows that Uncle Oscar feels qualms or misgivings about placing money on Daffodil, despite his nephew's conviction that it will win. The horse is not expected to do well. The significance of the quote lies in that Daffodil does win, showing Paul has correctly predicted the winner.

3. In this quote, Uncle Oscar is suggesting to Paul that he keep his race winnings rather than give them to his mother. It's better to stick with what you have—a bird in hand—than to risk it on uncertainty in the hope of gaining more, his uncle advises.

4. Giving his mother the money only feeds her frenzy for more. Paul is feeling the pressure, and despite his best efforts, picks the wrong horse for two races in a row. His uncle is telling him in this quote not to worry about it and to relax. But Paul has become so obsessed with winning money that he can't absorb his uncle's sensible words.

5. His uncle says these words in sympathy for Paul's early death. He states that it is better to be out of this world than to be fixated on winning money. It's also significant that, although he is using a pat, cliched phrase, Oscar repeats the word "devil." In his last ride, Paul almost seems possessed by the devil:

It's Malabar!" he screamed in a powerful, strange voice. "It's Malabar!"
His eyes blazed at her for one strange and senseless second . . .
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An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of these quotes from "The Rocking Horse Winner"?

"It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."
"There was a pause. Daffodil was an obscure horse comparatively."
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, laddie!" said Uncle Oscar
"Let it alone, son! Don't you bother about it!" urged Uncle Oscar. But it was as if the boy couldn't really hear what his uncle was saying.
"Poor devil, poor devil"

1.  Paul's mother says this in response to the question he asks her: "What is luck?"  It represents her attitude about life and money--and since she believes her husband is not lucky, she's bitter.

2.  Uncle Oscar says this when Paul tells him about his betting practices.  Daffodil is Paul's prediction, a long shot, and his uncle is skeptical.

3.  Uncle Oscar says this after Paul agrees to let is mother have all the "inheritance" he has arranged for her.  Paul's philosophy is that he can make more money; his Uncle's is that it's better to be content with what you have than to want more.

4.  Uncle Oscar says this after Paul has lost money at the races and is frantically trying to rock his way to the next winner.  His line follows this one:  "He became wild-eyed and strange, as if something were going to explode in him." He tells Paul to relax because he's afraid Paul might explode--as he eventually does.

5.  Uncle Oscar says this as Paul has died.  He tries to comfort  his sister with the fact that she's just made 80,000 pounds even though she's lost her son. He is calling his nephew a "poor devil."

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Identify the speaker and significance of the following quotes from The Rocking Horse Winner.

1. "It's what causes you to have money. If you're lucky you have money. That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich. If you're rich, you may lose your money. But if you're lucky, you will always get more money."
2. "There was a pause. Daffodil was an obscure horse comparatively."
3. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, laddie!" said Uncle Oscar
4. "Let it alone, son! Don't you bother about it!" urged Uncle Oscar. But it was as if the boy couldn't really hear what his uncle was saying.
5. "Poor devil, poor devil"

I am thinking that this may be an assignment you have for class, and while I do not want to do the assignment for you, I will provide you with partial answers so that when you (re)read the story you can complete the assignment on your own.

1.  Paul's mother says this to him when Paul asks her if luck is money.  Paul has been hearing the house whispering "There must be more money."  Intuitively he knows that his parents, particularly his mother, wish for more money and highly value material goods.  His mother is quite bitter about her current economic status and blames her husband for her inability to live a more lavish lifestyle.  Paul interprets her answer quite literally and seeks luck to please his mother.

2.  The narrator states this to explain why the uncle questions Paul's choice for the winner of the race.  This is the first race Paul will be attending with his uncle now that his uncle has learned that he can accurately predict winners.  Paul sees these winnings as his luck because they bring money.  Also consider Paul's desire to please his mother.

3.  Uncle Oscar says this to Paul when he agrees to let his mother have the entire sum of money at once.  This quote and section are directly linked to the mother's greed.

4.  The narrator explains Uncle Oscar's attempts to calm and comfort Paul after he continues to lose money, for which he is desperate so that he can give more to his mother to make the whispers stop.  Examine how the desire to win is affecting Paul, how his behavior and interactions are changing and how others react to these changes.

5.  Uncle Oscar says this to Paul's mother just after Paul has died; it is the beginning of the last sentence of the story.  The "poor devil" is Paul.  This phrase is followed by "he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking horse to find a winner."  Think about what the uncle may be saying here and why he thinks Paul's death may be a good thing.  I believe he (and the author) sees Paul as a victim of his mother's greed.

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