drawing of a young boy riding a rocking-horse

The Rocking-Horse Winner

by D. H. Lawrence

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How would you describe Paul's relationship with Uncle Oscar in "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?

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In D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner," Paul is a young boy who has grown up with a mother who is never satisfied with the family's finances. When Paul asks his mother why they are poor (when she describes them as such), she explains:

"Well—I suppose," she said slowly and bitterly, "it's because your father has no luck."

His mother unfairly believes they have no money, not because his dad cannot find a better job, but because they lack good luck. Paul tells his mother that he has luck, but she does not really believe him.

Absorbed, taking no heed of other people, he went about with a sort of stealth, seeking inwardly for luck. He wanted luck, he wanted it, he wanted it.

It is at times like these that Paul rides his wooden horse.

He would sit on his big rocking-horse, charging madly into space, with a frenzy that made the little girls peer at him uneasily. Wildly the horse careened, the waving dark hair of the boy tossed, his eyes had a strange glare in them. 

When he got off the horse, he would demand that it take him where there was luck, and he would hit the rocking-horse with the whip his uncle bought for him. 

One day when he is riding, Paul's mother and Uncle Oscar look on. His mother tells Paul he is too old to ride the horse, but he ignores her. When he finally slides off the horse, he notes that at least he made it to where he was going. His uncle encourages him:

Don't you stop till you get there.

Later, while spending time with Uncle Oscar, Paul mentions the name of his horse when it won a race (though he explains that his horse's name changes). Oscar recognizes the name as an actual winner in a recent horse race. Paul's sister Joan tells Oscar that Paul talks about the races with Bassett, the gardener. Oscar speaks with Bassett, but the other man is reticent to share anything about the races and Paul, and suggests that perhaps Oscar could talk to Paul about it.

Oscar is amazed, and not just a little skeptical, when Paul not only talks of making bets through Bassett with large sums of money, but also tells his uncle who he favors for the next race—and it is obvious that his uncle does not believe Paul's choice will win. Uncle Oscar takes Paul to the races and as the boy foretold, Paul's choice comes in first.

Paul takes the entire situation very seriously—he has already earned 1,500 pounds on the races, and is a partner with Bassett, who places the bets. The reader discovers that Paul sees everything about his success related directly to luck. If the house is ever going to stop "whispering" to Paul about needing more money, he knows he must continue to be lucky and win races. He offers to allow Oscar to join Bassett and him in their partnership:

Only, you'd have to promise. . . uncle, not to let it go beyond us three. Bassett and I are lucky, and you must be lucky, because it was your ten shillings I started winning with.

Bassett, Oscar, and Paul become partners and wait for Paul to come up with the next name. Paul rides his horse furiously, madly, so that the name of the winner will come to him for upcoming race, the Derby.

A day before the race, Paul's mother returns home from a party, and her intuition tells her that something is wrong with Paul. She enters his room, frightened to see him so crazed, as he calls out the name of the next winner, and then collapses.

Oscar and Bassett make their bets as instructed by Paul, but the child is very, very ill. When Bassett comes to report their success, Paul tells his mother than he did it for her, that he was lucky.

But the boy died in the night.
It is Oscar, Paul's uncle and friend, who admonishes Paul's mother.
And even as he lay dead, his mother heard her brother's voice saying to her, "My God, Hester, you're eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad. But, poor devil, poor devil, he's best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner."

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